During Tsunami Preparedness Week, we need only reflect on the events of Jan. 23, 2018, when many of us were rousted out of our beds just before 2 a.m.
Moments earlier, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake rattled the Earth’s crust off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska, triggering a tsunami warning along most of B.C.’s coast.
The Jan. 23 tsunami not only showed us how far we’ve come with respect to our alerting and response systems, but also how far we still need to go. From a systems level, we learned that our alerting system does work, and will function even more effectively with the new wireless public alerting system.
Nevertheless, this tsunami warning also highlighted the fact that most of us remain unprepared to weather a catastrophic earthquake or tsunami, let alone recover from one.
Despite years of media attention and public outreach, a recent Emergency Management BC-commissioned Ipsos poll reveals that just over half of British Columbians have drafted an emergency plan, while only 13% state they’ve completed it.
On the upside, we also learned that most British Columbians can accurately determine threats according to their own geographic vulnerability. For example, most people in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island listed tsunamis and earthquakes as their biggest worry.
Worry does not necessarily translate into preparedness. Sentiment is one thing, action is another. Seven years ago, many of us watched with horror as a tsunami engulfed entire communities in Japan and killed more than 15,895 people (2,539 are still missing).
Before that, a 2004 earthquake and tsunami resulted in more than 200,000 deaths in the islands and countries in the Indian Ocean.
The good news is that, of the respondents surveyed, 75% of British Columbians said they have enough food, water and emergency supplies to last three days. Only four in 10, however, stated that most/all of those supplies are easily accessible.
Apathy was one of the reasons people listed for not having an emergency plan or kit. There were also many reasons more prevalent than apathy, with personal laziness being the most common.
Take action today!
For more information about how you, your family, friends and community can prepare for a catastrophic emergency, please visit: www.gov.bc.ca/PreparedBC
Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness