Zombies Attack Without Warning: Emergency Preparedness Week Will Help You Out
Zombie attack. Solar flares. Chicken flu pandemics. Asteroid debris and nuclear winters. Nicola Jones runs us through a few dark disaster scenarios in a special “Emergency Preparedness” feature in the Pique.
But if preparing for a one-in-ten-million event is hard to prioritise in your current life, then consider the much higher likelihood of seeing another flood or highway closure in Pemberton.
And if you just answered, “yeah, yeah, yeah, there’ll be enough time to prepare when the emergency actually is here”, take a quick check of your fuel gauge and think again.
Plus, the things most people would grab if their house was burning down, wouldn’t really help them if the internet was down, the power went out and the grocery store closed.
Bettina Falloon was the eyes and ears of Pemberton Fire Department for 13 years, serving as Head Dispatcher until 911 service was extended here. In 2006, when the wildfires occurred, the Village of Pemberton staffer realised that emergency management was something she was really interested in, and she began pursuing it seriously as a course of study.
She is part of the team coordinating Saturday’s Emergency Preparedness Open House at the Community Centre from 10am to 1pm – which, for most local kids is just an excuse to sit in a fire truck or vehicle with a siren – but will also double as a chance to rethink your preparedness approach, with:
- 15% discount coupon on emergency kits ordered online
- visit from Smokey the Bear
- the Pemberton Fire Department’s famous Hot Dog BBQ
- information on everything from camp fire safety to home smoke detectors to personal emergency kits.
- art table to make a poster and enter the elementary student Shake Out poster contest
We asked her what all the fuss is about, and why Emergency Preparedness actually matters.
What is your Emergency Preparedness role?
I am the Emergency Program Coordinator for the Village of Pemberton. It is a part time position. I am responsible for overseeing and coordinating the community’s emergency management program, to ensure that it meets the legislative requirements, to prepare and present programs, plans and reports, to develop a training program for staff and volunteers as well as engage the public in emergency preparedness.
Why you? Why did you get involved in this?
I have been involved in emergency response for over 15 years; however, my interest in the field of emergency management really came when I was asked to provide relief work in the SLRD Emergency Operations Centre during the 2009 wildfires. That is when I discovered that I wanted to be more involved at this level of management and organization. I researched what experience and training is available and needed. I attended JIBC and received my Emergency Management Certificate in 2011 and recently completed the Emergency Management Exercise Design Certificate. I am now looking at attending the Royal Roads for a Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management.
You handled dispatch for the Fire Department for 13 years, right? Are you a bit of a disaster junkie?
Perhaps! I am intrigued by the magnitude of what can occur during an emergency or disaster and I am driven by how I can help my community to mitigate and prepare to respond and recover.
In your experience, what do you think catches people the most off guard when disaster strikes?
Most people are caught off guard when disaster strikes as they are not prepared or do not have an understanding of the risks around them. It is important to understand the risks in your region, as well as to make an emergency plan to help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. And then to have an emergency kit with basic supplies that is easily accessible.
What does Emergency Preparedness actually mean?
When it comes to emergency preparedness and emergency management, we all have a role to play. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours during an emergency. You should also understand the basic principles of first aid and safety.
Can a person just buy one of those emergency kits from Canadian Tire and be done with it?
Yes you can – however, it should also be customized to meet your family needs – include: copy of your emergency plan and contact information (out of area contact), medications, cash, copy of insurance papers or contacts, If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)
If an emergency happens in your community, it may take emergency workers some time to reach you. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours. The “72 Hours…Is Your Family Prepared?” campaign encourages Canadians to be prepared to cope on their own for at least the first 72 hours of an emergency, enabling first responders to focus on those in urgent need.
What kind of emergencies has Pemberton experienced since you’ve been living here?
2003 Rutherford/Miller Creek Flood, 2009 Wildfires, 2010 Meager Creek Landslide, 2011 6.3 Earthquake felt in Pemberton, a few landslides which have closed the highway south to Vancouver – canyon south of Whistler, Porteau Cove, ice jam on Pemberton Creek, train derailment, house fires, power outages, multiple car accidents
What would be the top 3-5 hazards/emergencies that residents of Pemberton and region should be prepared for?
Flood, Wildfire, Earthquake, landslide blocking transportation routes
What is the likelihood of an emergency here?
Bottom line: what do I need to prepare my family for emergencies? What are the 3 most important things I should do?
• Know the risks
• Make a plan
• Get an emergency kit
Why is it something that local governments get involved in?
Under the Emergency Program Act, local authorities must prepare local emergency plans to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters.
Updated info is critical in an emergency. What kind of channels exist in our region for people to stay appraised of what’s happening (so they don’t decide to drive up Meadows Road towards the fire, to check out the action and get the latest?) Should we turn to the radio? twitter? facebook? What will the Village use to keep us informed?
The Village will provide information through Village website, facebook as well as radio (Mt FM) As well, will work in conjunction with the SLRD and Lil’wat Nation to provide public information through website, SLRD Twitter account, FB.
What is an emergency plan?
Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. It will take you about 20 minutes to make your plan.
Your family may not be together when an emergency occurs. Plan how to meet or how to contact one another, and discuss what you would do in different situations.
Keep this document in an easy-to-find, easy-to-remember place (for example, with your emergency kit). Photocopy this plan and keep it in your car and/or at work, and a copy close to your phone. If you completed your plan online , keep an electronic version on your computer. Before starting, you will need to think about:
- Safe exits from home and neighbourhood
- Meeting places to reunite with family or roommates
- Designated person to pick up children should you be unavailable
- Contact persons close-by and out-of-town
- Health and insurance information
- Places for your pet to stay
- Risks in your region
- Location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain
What are the 5 most important things to teach kids, with respect to emergencies?
- Teach them about natural hazards like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, ice storms, and blizzards –and what to do when they occur.
- Make a family emergency plan, and preparing an emergency kit together.
- Teach your kids what to do in case of a fire.
- Make sure your kids know what to do at school if an emergency happens.
- Teach them how to use 911
One thing I’ve heard often in Pemberton is that emergencies really bring people together, and help people understand what is amazing about where we live… How can blocks/streets/neighbours prepare better?
Pemberton and surrounding area have shown that they are great at supporting one another etc. SLRD and VOP are developing Neighbourhood Preparedness Programs which can be used by a block, complex or street to support one another during emergencies:
The Program will also teach neighbours how to organize themselves into Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Teams. Some of the skills they will learn include:
- team leadership
- first aid
- utilities and fire suppression
- light urban search and rescue
- communications and transportation
- shelter and care giving
- damage assessment
Each of these skill-based areas can form a different response unit; hence, the Neighbourhood Team can be comprised of up to seven different response units, or in the case of a small neighbourhood, functions of the response units can be combined.
Is there a one-stop shop for information relevant to local residents?