Sidney Fire asking residents to prepare themselves

Self-sufficiency key in the event of emergency

About twice a week, members of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department have been presenting to residents of large strata buildings about emergency preparedness, and on Tuesday night, they made a similar presentation at the Fire Hall, which was open to all.

About 20 attendees viewed a slide presentation from chief Brett Mikkelsen, which covered a range of potential threats to the Town and how likely they were to occur.

Mikkelsen said that the department had been circulating to all the large strata corporations because they were self-contained communities and they could address many people at once, but the department saw demand from individual homeowners, so the department aims to host public information sessions at least quarterly. The fire department did a similar presentation in September at the Nell Horth room, and they are considering a future event in the Greenglade neighbourhood. They also hold meetings upon request.

Mikkelsen said a weather event like a snowstorm is the most likely scenario residents should prepare for, but an earthquake would be more damaging.

“If you take steps towards preparedness for the most likely event, you’ll be better prepared for the worst case event,” said Mikkelsen.

Tsunami risk is actually low in Sidney, with no severe flooding expected due to Sidney’s location up the Haro Strait, but severe tidal action would likely affect marine infrastructure and moored vessels.

The west coast of Vancouver Island or Port Renfrew would be at greater risk.

Mikkelsen said that Sidney’s older population was a unique consideration, with over 37 per cent of the Town over the age of 65, and nearly 10 per cent of the town over the age of 85.

Emergency services would likely be overwhelmed with calls to Resthaven Lodge and other assisted living facilities where residents could not rescue themselves. With that in mind, Mikkelsen said: “If you can look after yourself, do.”

To Mikkelsen’s knowledge, they are the first area municipality to have all nursing homes sign a mutual aid agreement where if one home fails, others will step up to take residents in. This was initiated by Sidney Fire and has been tested twice, most recently in October where 30 to 40 “residents,” played by actors, were moved in a mock evacuation.

In the event of an earthquake, Mikkelsen said “duck and cover until the shaking stops.” Falling debris and broken glass is the most common cause of injury, so having shoes or slippers by the bedside is important. Mikkelsen also recommended securing heavy bookshelves to the wall.

Putting together a 72-hour kit to survive without any assistance is “not onerous, but remains a tough sell.”

Mikkelsen’s wife is in charge of emergency preparedness in their house, and they store their emergency kit in a wheeled garbage can. He recommended re-purposing a rolling suitcase, because if residents are asked to move to a safer location, it would be easier to wheel those supplies than to carry them by hand.

“If you get 20 people here, 20 people there, there’s 20 more people more likely to put together emergency kits and understand some of the risk.”

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