Important to have an emergency plan

That's the message Maple Ridge’s emergency services spread during Emergency Preparedness Week.

Mason Dougan

Mason Dougan

If you think you don’t panic in tricky situations, maybe you should go through an earthquake first. It’s hard to say how people react when the ground starts trembling beneath them, says Vera Glasser.

She survived a 7.1-magnitude  earthquake 15 years ago while holidaying in Costa Rica. When the quake hit, Vera and her husband Paul evacuated their cabin and waited in the middle of the lawn, away from power poles.

But one of her neighbours became disoriented, decided to re-enter the cabins and crawled under a bed.

“You know you totally change. You think you’re going to be cool and collected, but that doesn’t work.”

When the quake hit, people just bolted, Vera remembers.

“All of a sudden, people were running for their lives. People didn’t know what was happening to them. Their thoughts are, ‘What do we do now?’”

That’s why it’s important to have a plan, the message that Maple Ridge’s emergency services were trying to drum into people last week during Emergency Preparedness Week.

What happens if you work in Surrey, your spouse is in Langley and your kids are in Maple Ridge and a quake hits and the bridges are closed?

You need to have a plan – so that someone can care for your kids if you can’t make it home, says emergency program assistant Barb Morgan, who notes that 55 per cents of residents work outside Maple Ridge.

Morgan pointed out emergency crews are often tied up and possibly won’t be able to reach people for days.

“People think other people will come to help them.”

So the best thing to do is have an emergency kit near the door ready to grab on the way out if the big one strikes. That kit should contain cash and some quarters, for pay phones which may be the only form of communication. Cellphones may or may not work.

It could get ugly after a few days of broken transportation or communication lines. Grocery stores usually have only few days of food inventory. “Certainly there will be a struggle for food. There will be looting.”

Morgan said the emergency situation most likely to face Maple Ridge will be a flood. After that, in terms of probability, are a structure fire, a railway spill, forest fire, power outage, natural gas explosion, a river accident, landslide and earthquake.

While the recent warm weather is a break from a cold spring, Morgan is thinking of the heavy snow pack in the mountains, which if conditions are right, could lead to a flood of the Fraser River.

“Any one pattern of weather for a long period of time is not good.”

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