Emergency Expo in North Saanich this Saturday

If disasters such as recent earthquakes have taught us anything, it’s that people will need to fend for themselves.

If disasters such as the earthquakes in Nepal and Christchurch, New Zealand taught us anything, say officials with the North Saanich and Sidney fire departments, it’s that people will need to fend for themselves for a much longer time than previously thought.

Prior to those incidents and others like them, it was common thinking that as long as people had food, water and emergency supplies for 72 hours, that would be enough to tide them over until help arrived. That’s just not the case any more, says John Trelford of the North Saanich Fire Department and Mike Harman of the Sidney fire hall.

“As part of regional emergency planning preparation,” explained Trelford, “the trend is looking to a week’s time — based on experiences in recent quakes and other disasters.”

While actual emergency crew response times will vary, he pointed out that people will need to be prepared for an extended period of uncertainty. For help to arrive, he added, the infrastructure must be in place — without passable roads or stable facilities like ports or airstrips, supplies will run out fast.

That’s especially true for Vancouver Island, Harman said. Food and other supplies at grocery stores will vanish quickly and as the Island is dependant upon imported food, re-supply during an emergency could take days.

This is the message behind the Saturday, May 9 Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization (PEMO) expo at Panorama Recreation Centre. Crew and equipment from Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney fire departments will join the RCMP, Central Saanich Police, B.C. Ambulance, Victoria Airport Fire and others. They are encouraging people to get their kit together.

It’s a simple idea: to have a kit in your home that contains enough water, food, first aid gear and other supplies that will allow you to survive on your own for at least a week.

“It’s a big commitment to have to go out and buy enough stuff for a week,” Trelford said. “If we can get the idea out now, maybe people can add to their kit over time.”

“We want them to at least start thinking about it,” Harman added.

They plan of having demonstration kits at Panorama, to help show people what could go inside. The expo will also show people tips on how to respond in the event of a crisis — such as where the gas shut off valves are typically located in one’s home.

“We want people to think about this,” Harman added, “especially since emergency services are going to be bogged down.

“I think back to the snow storm in 1996. People then were OK but if it was much worse, how would they respond? It takes time to learn and to prepare.”

The various branches of PEMO (search and rescue, communications, emergency social services and neighbourhood preparedness) will be at the expo to explain their role. Harman said the biggest push at this event is on awareness.

Yes, these organization exist to help — but they will be so overwhelmed in the first few days of a disaster. People have to be self-sufficient.”

The PEMO expo is not all serious. The Sidney Lions Club will be on site and serving food and there will be a collection of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to explore.

The expo runs Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For information on emergency preparedness, visit prepareyourself.ca.