Ukee councillors Randy Oliwa

Behest of the West: Get prepared before you panic

On June 7, Ucluelet will hold a community tsunami evacuation drill from 7-8 p.m.

My twin daughters will turn nine months old this week, which means nearly nine months ago I was pacing hysterically around a broken-down car about 100 kilometres from where they were born.

I should have had a plan.

Crimson and Clover were born in Victoria on Wednesday, Sept. 9. I had been in Victoria on Sept. 7, but I had council meetings to cover in Tofino and Ucluelet on Sept. 8 so I drove back home. The girls, I was assured, wouldn’t be arriving that week and my mother—who’s always there—promised to call if that schedule changed.

The phone rang around 6:30 a.m. and mom summoned the same voice she’d used to assure me there were no monsters under my bed.  ‘Andrew,’ she cooed. ‘Now then, don’t be worried, but you have to come back to Victoria now.’

So, off I went. At least, had I been prepared, off I would have went. But I was not prepared. I spent at least 30 minutes frenzying about trying to remember all the things my partner had told me to bring. I had not packed those things prior to panic setting in. I had waited for the emergency to ensue before frantically searching for them. I had also not put gas in my car, that would have required thinking ahead. So, in a decision I’ll never truly understand, I took hers. It was the sort of disastrous quick decision that gets forced on the ill prepared.

Her car got me to Ladysmith before dying. Crimson and Clover arrived at 10:58 and 11 a.m. respectively. It takes me four hours to drive to Victoria from here. If I’d been prepared, I would have been there to welcome them.

My first date with their mother was to a tsunami preparedness lecture given by Ucluelet’s environmental and emergency services manager Karla Robison in 2012. Romantic, I know, but we were both interested in attending.

Robison is a solid presenter. She’s full of information and a pro at dishing it out. I left that lecture with a full-on understanding of why I needed an emergency kit and what I needed to pack into it. I still don’t have one. Robison’s been giving those lectures for four years now, yet many of us haven’t started packing yet.

A tsunami, we’ve assured ourselves, won’t be arriving this week and our local, provincial and federal governments have set up all sorts of ways to alert us if that schedule changes.

Those calls will be moot if we’re not prepared when the phone rings.

If we wait until panic sets in before frantically searching for all the things Robison told us to bring, we’ll end up making the sort of disastrous quick decisions that get forced on the ill prepared.

When an earthquake or tsunami strikes this Coast, first responders will have their hands full. Relying on them or our neighbours to help us means we’re relying on ourselves to drain the resources of others. Emergencies don’t set dates and they don’t give us deadlines. The time to be prepared is always now and, lucky for us, now is a good time to get prepared.

On June 7, Ucluelet will hold a community tsunami evacuation drill from 7-8 p.m. The fire hall’s siren will wail and we’ll all make our way to the school where a mock reception centre will be set up to dish out information. On June 9, Canadian Armed Forces personnel will be in Ucluelet running emergency preparedness exercises with local first responders. With the amount of effort being put in to prepare us, what’s our excuse for not being prepared?

It’s easy to bask in this paradise and think nothing could go wrong, but emergencies are always unexpected. Babies come early, cars break down, earthquakes and tsunamis hit. Make a plan, be prepared and pack a kit.

 

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.