The Sensible Thing is written by Betsy Kline

The Sensible Thing: Betsy Kline

Fort McMurray fires: A reminder to prepare for emergencies

The recent fires in northern BC and Alberta and the evacuations that went with them have made many ponder what they would do when faced with the same situation. What would I take with me? What should I take with me? How will I contact my loved ones? What would I do if my family wasn’t all at home when the order came? If I have time, what are the most precious possessions that I would like to grab?

Although local authorities often warn us to be prepared for the likelihood of a disaster, most of us, myself included, don’t ever really do anything about it. Stories coming out of the north should serve as a wake-up call and provocation for all of us to finally put together an emergency plan and what the experts like to call a “grab-and-go” bag.

In the event of a major emergency or disaster the City of Castlegar has both an emergency program and an official emergency plan that would activate. The fire hall would then also become the emergency operations centre.

An important thing to remember is to make sure you get your information from official sources. Your Facebook friends should not be depended on for vital information, just consider the last hoax that moved through social media faster than a forest fire and stick to the official sources.

Information will be distributed through local media sources, their websites and on the City of Castlegar website. On Facebook, information will be released through the Castlegar Fire Department and City of Castlegar pages.

In the case of an evacuation, orders will be given over the radio and by direct contact and may require rapid response on the part of citizens. Having a plan and being prepared for such an event will help you make it out safely with the tools and supplies you will need to face the time away from your home.

Authorities suggest that each household make a personalized plan that each person understands clearly. Each person should have a list of contact numbers for friends and family and a contact person outside of the area should be established. A meeting place should be established in case all family members can not return home before the evacuation. Local phone service may be limited, so you can use your outside contact person to stay in touch and notify others of your location and status. The PreparedBC website has a lot of information including a printable emergency plan you can fill out to meet your needs.

The RDCK has a complete list of items to include in your grab-and-go kit at rdck.ca. The list is quite extensive but at the minimum should contain a first aid kid, battery or hand-crank radio, flashlight and extra batteries, whistle, cellphone with charger, cash in small bills, local map with meeting places identified, three day supply of food and water, medications, blanket, personal toiletries, garbage bags, dust mask and seasonal clothing.

You also do not want to leave any important paperwork behind such as identification and insurance papers. PreparedBC recommends that you keep copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, licences, wills, land deeds, insurance and other important documents in a safe place both inside and outside your home, such as a safety deposit box. If you already store important paperwork in a fireproof box in your home, grab the entire box and don’t forget the key.

The City of Castlegar has recently put together an emergency preparedness guidebook. The book has information on preparing your home, earthquakes, power outages, fires, floods and evacuations. It also contains handy forms to help you gather information you may need such as contacts, phone numbers, medical, floor plans, and account and policy numbers.

The RDCK has recently introduced an emergency alert system. The community notification system is a free and easy program that enables users to receive free text messages and landline calls notifying them of emergencies occurring in the area for which they have selected alerts. The system will also link to pertinent information the public needs in an emergency event—evacuation alerts and notices, maps, emergency centre locations, etc. To sign up for notifications, visit rdckemergency.connectrocket.com.

Step one — sign up for RDCK alerts, done. Now I’m off to try and find a bag big enough for all of those supplies I need to collect — after I make myself a cup of tea and read the new emergency guide book.

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