Although most Comox Valley residents likely didn’t feel a thing, Saturday evening’s earthquake should serve as a wakeup call, according to the Comox Valley Emergency Program (CVEP).
“There really seems to be a complacency, but once something happens, people do get busy and they start asking for presentations and briefings and ‘Where can I get this information, where can I get that information?’ ” says the CVEP’s deputy emergency program co-ordinator Dave Carmichael. “We know that the Big One that everybody talks about is going to happen — we just don’t know when it’s going to happen — so we need to prepare.”
A 7.7-magnitude earthquake — the strongest in Canada in over 60 years — struck off the coast of Haida Gwaii around 8 p.m. Saturday. A tsunami warning was issued for a number of low-lying coastal areas, including Port Hardy at the tip of Vancouver Island, and numerous aftershocks followed. Some people were evacuated, though the tsunami warnings were later lifted and evacuees were allowed to return home.
Carmichael says he hasn’t heard from anyone who felt the quake in the Comox Valley and the CVEP only had to send out e-mails to members of the emergency program planning committee to let them know the earthquake happened. This part of the Island didn’t have a tsunami advisory, which he says is the lowest level of tsunami warning.
Courtenay resident Nadja Recktenwald didn’t feel the earthquake — but saw it — when she was having dinner with her sister.
“We were sitting there just joking a little bit and having some good dinner conversation and we both looked up and went ‘Oh,’ the chandelier was swinging as if a monkey was hanging off of it,” recalls Recktenwald.
“We never found out, until 10 minutes after, a friend had called and said ‘Oh did you feel anything?’ We just laughed about the chandelier; we didn’t feel anything.”
While some people may have noticed small things like swinging chandeliers around here, people on the islands of Haida Gwaii and nearby places like Prince Rupert gave accounts of the ground moving like a wave.
There are no reports of major damage or injuries and Carmichael noted the earthquake was a “sliding earthquake” which is generally a “low-damage” earthquake.
Carmichael says the first thing to do in order to be prepared for an emergency situation is to create a ‘grab n’ go bag.’
He notes the bag should contain items like: copies of your insurance papers, a copy of your birth certificate or passport, other important papers, some extra medication if needed, an extra pair of glasses, a bit of cash and a clean change of clothes.
Other items listed on Public Safety Canada’s Your Emergency Preparedness Guide include water, non-perishable food, a battery-powered radio, extra sets of keys and a flashlight, among other things. Carmichael says there should be one grab n’ go bag per person and that people should be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours in an emergency situation.
He adds emergency operations centres would be set up by local governments and reception centres would be set up in places like gymnasiums and churches.
Carmichael says it’s very important to register at a reception centre during an evacuation so that people know you’re safe — something he says is often overlooked by the public in emergency situations.
The CVEP offers emergency preparedness presentations to anyone who would like to learn how to prepare for an emergency, and its website, www.comoxvalleyemergencyprogram.com, features links to a wealth of information.
Overall, Carmichael notes the Comox Valley is in a good situation when it comes to being prepared for emergencies.
“It’s important for people to know that the Comox Valley is well-prepared,” he says. “We have excellent fire departments, we have very good policing, the folks who manage the infrastructure, either those working for the City of Courtenay or the folks who are hired by the Comox Valley Regional District, all those there, they are trained on how to get things better quickly.”