"Be prepared, not scared" is the motto of the Sunshine Coast Emergency Preparedness Program (SCEPP). Coordinator Bob Stubbings said it's up to individuals to be prepared for the numerous disasters that could take place on the Coast.
"Because of the tsunami, people here are worried about one happening on the Coast and what they should do. The chances of a tsunami happening here are slim, and even if there was one, the waves would only be maybe 100 cm high or less," said Stubbings.
He has been investigating the possibility of a tsunami on the Coast. A scenario done by the Institute of Ocean Sciences shows the Sunshine Coast dealing with much smaller waves than areas like Washington and the Oregon coast.
"Those areas would be hit with bigger, more devastating waves," said Stubbings, explaining the outer coast would take the brunt of force from waves while water would be displaced and waves would lose momentum by the time they reached the Sunshine Coast.
This scenario is based on the fault line near Vancouver Island moving and sending water our way, but Stubbings said not all earthquakes cause tsunamis.
"The plates would have to move vertically to shoot water up from the ocean, instead of horizontally," said Stubbings.
He said the effects of the earthquake itself would be more troublesome on the Coast than the possibility of a small-scale tsunami.
But Stubbings was quick to caution people not to live in fear of a possible earthquake or tsunami.
"We spend a lot of time looking at what is the worst thing that could happen, and we think of a major earthquake. But we can look at the past and see that we have a major earthquake in this area about every 300 to 500 years, where we have forest fires, another form of emergency, nearly every year. So you have to ask yourself what should we be spending our time on," said Stubbings who added the SCEPP is in the midst of having a hazard, risk and vulnerability analysis done.
Once the analysis is finished in the spring, it will make recommendations to the SCEPP as to where it should focus emergency preparedness efforts.
"It will identify all the risks for our area and ways to mitigate some of them. There will also be a mapping component, and a geologist or seismologist may be needed," said Stubbings.
The report is being created by a company in Vancouver with funding given to the SCEPP by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Stubbings said he and his volunteers know the majority of risks and preventative measures that have to be taken on the Coast, but a formal document will help identify the most important issues and make recommendations on how to deal with specific emergencies.
"The Coast is a hard place to diagnose because we don't know what will happen in a disaster, be it natural or a chemical spill or whatever. We don't know what areas of the Coast may be cut off, and we are pretty spread out, so it's important to look at all the angles and get people to take the initiative to get themselves prepared," said Stubbings.
The SCEPP organized a simple week-by-week list of things to gather for an emergency kit to store at your home or in your car. It is available online at www.scrd.bc.ca/emergency_programs.
html. It details packing things such as a first aid kit, water, food, clothing, a flashlight and radio. Stubbings recommends adding a few personal touches to your kit in the unfortunate event you have to use it.
"People should pack a book or a deck of cards to keep themselves busy while they wait for assistance. And I think it's important to have a picture of your loved ones there too, so if you are separated from them, you can hold on to that," said Stubbings.
He said in the event of an emergency, people should stay in their homes if possible and tune in to CBC or one of the Mainland radio stations to wait for direction from the SCEPP.
"On the Coast, there are a lot of radio stations that you can get in one place and not the other, so we would be relaying any information about the Coast to many different sources, and CBC would be one we would use for sure," said Stubbings.
The SCEPP is also working on obtaining a 200-bed emergency hospital kit from the province that was originally stationed at the Sechelt Airport, but later returned due to container defects. "The containers were leaking and some of the supplies were damaged," said Stubbings.
Two huge heavy containers hold enough equipment and supplies, including a generator, to run a 200-bed emergency hospital in the event of an emergency.
The SCEPP is currently in discussions with the school district to situate the containers at Elphinstone Secondary School, which would be used as a hospital should the lower Coast be separated from St. Mary's Hospital.
Stubbings encourages everyone on the Coast to put together an emergency kit and have it handy in case of a disaster. The 26-week online guide is an easy checklist to follow, or you can make a checklist of your own that includes the essentials. Be sure to think about your children's needs as well when creating your checklist.
Currently the SCEPP has about 100 volunteers who will answer the call in the case of emergency. The group meets monthly and includes firefighters, radio club enthusiasts, health workers and other interested citizens.
If you want to volunteer to help out, contact Stubbings at 604-885-0738. For more information on emergency preparedness, go to www.pep.bc.ca.