Preparing for an emergency starts at home

Preparing for an emergency starts at home

A siren that was set off in Cumberland raised the question of emergency preparedness

The siren that went off early on the morning of July 29 at Cumberland’s Village Park was not in response to an emergency, however, this incident has caused residents to question what they should do if one were to occur.

“Do we have a community emergency response protocol? Do we all know about it? Do we know how to help? Do we know how to avoid being unhelpful?” wrote Meaghan Cursons in a Facebook post after being woken up by the siren.

The siren was part of a PA system set up 20 years ago for use at baseball games or large events at the park. It was set off at around 3 a.m. on July 29 after someone broke into the control building and turned it on.

According to Sundance Topham, chief administrative officer with the Village of Cumberland, the proper reaction to an emergency really depends on what the actual emergency is.

“It’s unfortunate that people think [the siren] is part of [the emergency plan], and I think that confused people,” he said. “It’s important for people to know that we are on top of it and have training and have plans if something does happen.”

Every municipality in the Valley uses the Comox Valley Emergency Program, a program that plans extensively for any situation that may arise. In the event of any emergency, information and instructions would be circulated quickly to residents.

“We would provide instructions on where to go and what to do,” said Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner. “Follow whatever the officials are directing them to do.”

He said depending on the emergency, information would be put out through any system available at the time, including updating the Comox Valley Regional District and each municipality’s websites, sending alerts to residents’ phones and broadcasting messages through local radio stations.

Schreiner added that for localized emergencies, crews would likely go door to door to inform residents, and for larger emergencies, mobile PA systems could be set up.

Paul Berry, director of health and safety with the Comox Valley School District, said because the response to each emergency is so different, the best thing people can do is prepare themselves at home.

“Take the time to prepare their own personal emergency plan – prepare their home, their family and prepare a kit,” he said. “A grab-and-go bag that they can take in the event that they did have to get up and go at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Berry said items to pack in an emergency kit include any medications, vital documents, a device to use for communication and enough food and water for 72 hours. These kits should be stored near an exit and easily accessible.

For more information and resources on preparing for an emergency, visit

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