Emergencies Are you Prepared?

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This article was edited and updated on December 23, 2021.

It can happen to You

This photograph, provided by CTV News, shows the kind of damage that hit Vancouver during the storm.

In late August 2015, Metro Vancouver and parts of Vancouver Island in British Columbia suffered through a severe wind and rain storm. Hundreds of trees were uprooted and large areas were without power for several days. BC Hydro stated that 710,000 — half of its customers — lost power due to the storm; they called it "the single largest outage event" in the utility's history.

According to an article from CBC: "BC Hydro [had] nearly 500 employees from around the province working in the Metro Vancouver area to restore power, responding to 1,800 incidents — roughly the same amount they usually address in a month."

BC Hydro explained to its customers in an email after the storm: "...over the course of three days, crews replaced approximately 200 power poles and 500 broken cross-arms on pole-tops, fixed 25 damaged transmission circuits and replaced 10,000 metres of wire and more than 1,200 pieces of electrical equipment."

As well, during the summer of 2015, BC experienced one of the worst fire seasons ever. The total forest burned (as of Aug. 17, 2015) was 3,004,848 hectares. That’s a larger area than the island of Sicily. Evacuations occurred often and sometimes with little notice, keeping people off-guard and having to run for their lives.

Finally, in the fall of 2021, Metro Vancouver suffered through a series of "atmospheric river" conditions and many areas were flooded; worse still, the infrastructure of the province was severely damaged, cutting off major highways; Vancouver experienced a serious supply chain issue while the roads were repaired.

We can more-than-likely expect more extreme weather changes as our planet continues to heat up. Here's a discussion about that from Discovery Channel titled "10 Signs Climate Change is Already Happening":

"...There have always been and always will be storms and heatwaves. Climate scientists are careful not to scribe any specific weather event to global warming. However, climate creates the conditions in which weather takes place... and scientists have long suspected that a changing climate will make certain weather events more likely and others more extreme....

"For example, a warming ocean, while actually making it more difficult for hurricanes to form, is leading to [stronger] hurricanes when they do form. When major storms do strike, higher sea levels will result in greater storm surges and coastal flooding. As the Arctic warms, circumpolar wind patterns are becoming disrupted, altering the course of the jet stream, which steers weather systems from west to east around the northern hemisphere. As a consequence, says a recent study, the jet stream is becoming “wavier,” with steeper troughs and higher ridges.

"Weather systems in turn are progressing more slowly, raising the chances for long-duration extreme events, like droughts, floods, extreme snowfall in winter, and heat waves. Recent studies have attributed some recent rainfall extremes to climate change, with a warmer atmosphere able to hold more moisture, while others indicate that many recent heat-waves would not have occurred without global warming."

What kind of emergencies should you prepare for?

Emergencies can trap us in our homes with no power (and little food or water) for several hours or days. Trapped in our home, we will need to wait out the storm and its aftermath, and hopefully have enough supplies to last us for the duration.

Other types of emergencies — a forest fire, earthquake, or flood — can cause us to leave our home. Some may live near an active volcano, or in an area where there are tornadoes or hurricanes. In each of these situations, we must be prepared to leave at a moment's notice, taking with us our most precious possessions and gear that will help us through the next few days or perhaps weeks.

You will decide what types of emergencies to prepare for, partly based on your own previous experiences and where you live. What you store and keep in your home will be based on those expectations and previous experiences, as well as the likelihood that you will either have to remain in your home, or flee. In many cases, you have to prepare for both.

Older adults are more vulnerable in these situations and may need to take more precautions than others do.

Start with a Checklist of the Essential Items you Need

If you believe that it is most likely that you will need to remain inside because of a power outage, then your checklist should include the following (these items could also be taken with you, if necessary):

If you put most of these items in a backpack, then you will also be able to quickly pick it up and take it with you.

If you think you will have to leave, you need more items!

If you believe that you will most likely have to evacuate, then your checklist should include all of the above in addition to the following:

Special Concerns for the Older Adult

As my participants (many of whom are in the older adult category) came to fitness class after the outage, many mentioned to me their special circumstances. Here are some questions that you need to find answers to:

Knowing the answers to these questions will help an older adult to make plans for an emergency. Having friends or relatives nearby who can help is especially useful while communication with your doctor regarding medical equipment is imperative. A well-stocked pantry and emergency supplies become essential.

There are Many Websites that Help

You can find many emergency preparedness websites to give you even more advice. Here are just a few:

In Summary

None of us likes to think about emergencies. We live in a very comfortable situation in North America, yet these tragedies can occur and do everywhere on this continent. We are not immune to them, and it therefore behooves us to be prepared. During the recent power outage, there were many complaints about BC Hydro and how quickly (or slowly) they got the power restored. We can't control the storm — or how quickly things get back to normal — but we can prepare for it so we can live through it.

Two final things to consider:

And you may ask if I have an emergency kit with these items? The answer is "yes, I do." I have had it ever since we moved to Vancouver and knew that an earthquake was a possibility.

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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