Councillor Ernest Pfanner returned from a conference with some thoughts on emergency preparedness. I asked him to write them for this column.
“I recently attended the twenty-fifth Annual Emergency Preparedness Conference. How fitting for the times we are in, with the recent earthquakes off Haida Gwaii and tropical storm Sandy hitting the East Coast.
The first day of the pre-conference session was held at the Justice Institute where we did a tabletop exercise of a tanker truck accident containing Ammonium Hydroxide (an event that could happen in Chetwynd). In this exercise things can go from bad to much worse in a hurry. It was a great learning experience seeing how all the different responders co-ordinate to do the best for the all the people affected.
Throughout the conference there were many good speakers addressing topics like global warming, terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, forest fires, ice storms, and floods. One of the questions that kept coming up was what is the worst case scenario in your part of the world? Of course, what came to my mind were the floods that we experienced last year, how much worse than that can it get? Well, listening to the speakers’ stories and watching disaster videos for the next couple of days really showed that it could get much worse.
We live in one of the best, if not the best, places on earth, we are relatively protected from most severe disasters, and from most of the other issues we see on the news almost daily. What else is there that may jump up and bite us one day? I know the sky is the limit here, but in my small world a simple thing like losing one or more utilities in the middle of January when it’s a frigid -30 is serious. How can we deal with the situation now, and how would we respond to the same situation if actually we were prepared? Then I started thinking about how prepared my family and I are and how prepared are other people in our community? How prepared is Chetwynd?
I remembered my childhood when the cold room in the basement was full of potatoes, carrots and canning from the garden, and the freezer was always packed with meat and other perishables prior to winter. We always had enough birch firewood stored up for the fireplace, at least enough for a couple of winters. I’m not sure if this was all good Emergency Preparedness or just the way things were done back then; either way, I think we were much better prepared than we are now.
My intention here is not to fear monger or speak about doom and gloom but rather to encourage each of us to look at ourselves and our households and see if there is anything else we can personally do to improve our collective emergency preparedness. Here is a good British Columbia website with tons of great information about emergencies and emergency preparedness: www.embc.gov.bc.ca.”
Mayor Merlin Nichols and Councillor Ernest Pfanner