Earthquakes cause various forms of damage, such as these cracks on a highway. Esquimalt residents surveyed by Royal Roads University researchers were found to be not as prepared for a disaster as they could be. Black Press file photo

Room for improvement in Esquimalt when it comes to disaster readiness

Royal Roads researchers found residents aged 40 to 49 are most prepared for a disaster

Just two per cent of residents in Esquimalt are considered fully prepared for an earthquake, according to a recent survey conducted by Royal Roads University students in the Disaster Management program.

The results of the survey – to gauge the effectiveness of public education programs – were presented to council just days after the Great BC ShakeOut. That’s when CFB Esquimalt set off a siren issuing a tsunami warning, later calling it an error and retracting the safety warning.

Sara Jansen, Esquimalt emergency program manager, worked with the students and said it’s important that people pay attention to reputable channels in the event of an emergency.

“We do benefit from having the sirens, but it’s important to know that they are not only for tsunamis, they are for any emergency,” Jansen said, before adding that means any emergency on the base.

The survey was conducted over the course of two weeks and saw 152 people answer 27 questions. Jansen said a common problem with emergency programs is collecting baseline data to understand a community’s level of preparedness.

The questions were based on criteria pulled from the province’s 11 elements of earthquake preparedness. Among other findings, the survey determined that age correlates to preparedness; those in the 18 to 29 age group were least prepared for a disaster, while people age 40 to 49 were most prepared.

Overall, 97 per cent of the population has at least started the road to preparedness, while just two per cent are considered fully prepared for any type of disaster.

Nick Bouchard, a Royal Roads masters student who presented the findings to council, agreed with Jansen that the use of CFB Esquimalt sirens to alert and inform the community needs to be demystified.

While just one-third of respondents said they had a family reunification plan in place, 97 per cent said they would help their neighbours in the event of an emergency.

“The incredible sense of community that exists in Esquimalt, it’s something that [you] can be proud of,” Bouchard told council. “It’s a strength that can be leveraged to increase the preparedness of the community.”

The results of the survey align with the strategic goals of the regional emergency management partnership, and the data will now be used to alter that plan regionally.

“Given the interesting events of last Thursday when we all did the great BC ShakeOut,” Desjardins said, “this is valuable information to help staff and council to move forward on how do we ensure our residents are that much more prepared.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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