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Behest of the West: Hear the calls and wake up to preparedness

How many of us had an emergency kit in tow? I didn’t.
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques reviews Tsunami Warning reports alongside the district’s emergency and environmental services manager Karla Robison and local police chief Sgt. Steve Mancini inside Ucluelet Secondary School’s gym early Tuesday morning. West Coast locals were evacuated from their homes around 3 a.m. following a 7.9 earthquake in Alaska that prompted a Tsunami Warning in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

“We are fine here. False alarm,” read a text from my mother around 11 a.m. on Jan. 13.

Its intent was clearly meant to reassure, but no one informed me I was supposed to be panicking and being told everything was fine somehow seemed very ominous. As it turned out, someone had pushed a horrifically wrong button in Hawaii while my parents were sleeping that suggested a ballistic missile was headed their way. There was no missile, but there was more than a few minutes of terror.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up to what I thought was my my cellphone’s alarm blaring. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all and I set about doing all the things I do before stepping into the world each day.

It wasn’t until Const. Jarett Duncan began banging on my door at 3 a.m. that I realized my alarm was still hours from going off and the ‘alarm’ I’d heard had actually been concerned phone calls from people who’d been told a tsunami was headed my way. There was no tsunami, but there was more than a few minutes of terror.

We did well during this week’s scare.

Our first responders reached us and, based on the attendance inside our high school’s gym, most of us followed the evacuation order diligently. That solid showing is worth pats on the back, but how many of us had an emergency kit in tow? I didn’t.

We have fantastic resources on this Coast. Ucluelet’s Karla Robison and Tofino’s Keith Orchiston are emergency preparedness professors eager to share impressive wealths of knowledge and both district’s websites have what we need to know what to do. Some of us have paid attention and packed the kits we’ve been urged to. What are the rest of us waiting for? One day, the alarm won’t be false. Being prepared could save our loved ones from heartbreak or stop us from being a burden on our first responders when that real disaster finally strikes.

This Coast is awesome. Enjoying it irresponsibly is not. Know the risks. Make a plan. Get a kit.

Prior to Tuesday morning’s terror, the world’s eyes were already on us.

Water giants hammered on our beautifully rocky coastlines and sandy shores last week, earning oohs and aahs from an orchestra of onlookers. The most powerful storm in a decade, some say longer, showed up and showed off the awe-striking power of our ocean.

Storms are awesome. Enjoying them irresponsibly is not.

The federal government doled out about $800,000 to our region back in 2013 to build us a program that would increase the safety of our shores by making us and our visitors smarter explorers. Bear in mind, that wasn’t the free-spending, read: money-burning, Trudeau government. It was the penny-pinching, read: sensible, Harper regime. Those dollars were infused with our committed local knowledge and CoastSmart was born. It’s a dynamic resource and some of us have paid attention to the goldmine that it is, but there were enough photos floating around social media last week to suggest we’re not all onboard with staying safe near the waves.

Let’s get into the ‘Know before you go near the water’ mantra and encourage our visitors to join us.

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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