The minimum guidelines suggest enough emergency supplies for 72 hours, but residents should plan for up to a week’s worth of supplies (Black Press file photo)

What happens in the Cowichan Valley when an earthquake strikes

When an earthquake does happen, will the Cowichan Valley be ready for it?

Residents of Vancouver Island have grown accustomed to conversations about potential earthquakes. The reality of life on the Island requires an acceptance that someday, an earthquake will occur. When it does happen will the Cowichan Valley be ready for it?

The B.C. government’s Earthquake Immediate Response Plan plans for two ‘worst case scenario’ earthquakes: A magnitude 7.3 earthquake beneath Vancouver and a magnitude 7.0 earthquake beneath Victoria. Both of these separate events have the potential to occur, although the probability is low.

In the event of a major earthquake, a provincial state of emergency will be declared that allows local governments to use emergency powers. Senior levels of government will coordinate disaster response with local governments and send resources to critical priority areas.

For residents in the Cowichan Valley, the CVRD will be the main point of contact for emergency response.

“In partnership with the local municipalities, we have a regional emergency plan, and we work together to establish priorities for emergency management within the entire region,” CVRD emergency telecommunications coordinator, Merrick Grieder said.

Immediately following an earthquake, the CVRD will activate their earthquake incident response plan. The CVRD will set up a regional emergency operation centre to support the entire region. Information gathering is critical to the CVRD response. Once the CVRD has assessed the impacts of an earthquake, they coordinate their response with senior levels of government.

“The number one priority is safety of responders, then making sure the risk doesn’t pass on to our citizens, or businesses or even the environment,” Grieder said.

“It all depends on the impact. We can do hypotheticals all day, but it really depends on the event: who’s impacted, what’s impacted, how it’s impacted. We’ll come up with a plan fairly quickly and start coordinating our response.”

The CVRD is currently assessing areas to identify natural hazards. Historically, there is a risk of flooding along rivers and creeks, however there is no specific area of concern.

A major component of the CVRD response will be communications. Grieder said that once the response effort is underway, the CVRD will broadcast messaging on local radio, and social media to notify residents about what they need to do to stay safe.

“We also encourage people to have their own emergency communication plans,” Grieder said. “For example, if someone has children attending an elementary school, but they work in Victoria, they need to come up with a plan to stay in touch, and work with their neighbours and family to make sure everybody stays in touch during the event.”

Personal preparedness will be key for residents to stay safe after an earthquake. There are 19 volunteer Fire Rescue operations in the CVRD. Depending on the severity of the earthquake, local departments may be overwhelmed with service calls. First responders will have to respond to high priority areas first, which means residents should be prepared.

The CVRD recommends residents prepare disaster supplies that will last for at least 72 hours. April Diver, emergency program coordinator for the CVRD recommends that residents go past the 72 hours, and aim for a week’s worth of emergency supplies. She also encourages residents to get to know their neighbours and come up with an emergency scenario plan together.

Online emergency preparedness resources are available on the CVRD website under the emergency management section.

Grieder encouraged all CVRD residents to participate in the annual Great BC Shakeout. This year, the BC Shakeout will be on October 15 at 10:15 am.

“It really goes a long way to get people aware of the risk, and they can start looking at getting prepared themselves. We need people to get prepared, and that’s a good way to get started,” Grieder said.

Visit cvrd.bc.ca (under services – emergency management) for more information on preparedness.

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