Emergency Preparedness

We do seem to get our share of extreme weather in Fernie. Avalanches, floods, blizzards, and perhaps worst of all, fire. To some degree it is the price we pay for living in these beautiful mountains. But the people of Fernie are far from defenseless in this battle with nature.  We have excellent emergency services– paid and volunteer including police, fire department, forest fire fighters, ski patrol, or search and rescue. Perhaps even more significantis how folks around here are both able to look after themselves, and eagerly try and help each other.

As I write this in August, the Coal Creek fire is burning 0% contained and is up over seven hundred hectares, Corbin Road has been evacuated and there’s more lightning in our future. So by the time you are reading this, I hope that this information was unnecessary, but maybe you are thinking ahead.

There are some things that you can do to be prepared. First and foremost in any disaster situation, you should be able to look after yourself for 72 hours – three days. So that sounds easy enough, but what if there is no power, or gas, or running water? 

It starts to get a little harder, doesn’t it? So what do should you do? Here is what my family does (disclaimer, I am not a disaster preparation professional).

Water.You cannot live without water and if a flood contaminates the supply, you need this. It isn’t really optional. While many of us own water purifiers, in flood situations, getting near a body of water is a dangerous idea. In my storage room we keep a few Culligans of water, they don’t take up much space and they don’t cost much.

Food. For three days your body will survive without food, but it won’t be fun. You don’t get my physique by missing meals. I rely on the freezer and pantry here. In most homes there is enough food for a few days. It may not end up as a gourmet meal, but you won’t starve and will have the energy to deal with whatever you need to.

Fuel. Lots of what you have to eat may need to be cooked. Here we always have a camping stove and fuel around. We just make sure that if we use up the fuel – you know camping- we replace it at the end of the trip, not the start of the next.

Valuables. We all have things that are meaningful to us.  They are different for us all and no one can tell you what you should value. Make e a list of what is important to you, so you don’t have to think about what to take during an emergency.  If there is time, you can just grab the swag and go.

Items that pose a risk to first responders. The last thing you want to do is make matters worse for people who are trying to help. If the disaster is a fire, there is probably more things that pose a risk. Try and take any fuels you can with you, shut off gas to your BBQ, move wood away from your home, and lastly, if you are a firearm owner, take your ammunition with you.

A safe evacuation plan. There are not too many ways out of the Elk Valley. You can head towards Cranbrook or you can head towards the Crowsnest Pass. But what you need in order to get there is fuel. I sometimes am bad for this, but keep fuel in your car’s tank. When fires are close, staying topped could be critical. During the Fort MacMurray fires there were cars abandoned on the side of the road, for want of gasoline. It’s worse if you drive a diesel as not every station carries it. A mild frustration normally, but it can be far worse.

A communications expectations. Locally, there are already gaps in cell phone coverage. Imagine the very real possibility of losing a tower or two during a disaster. Now, put people in extremely slow-moving queues of vehicles on the highway, with no way to get a hold of relatives of family members. As part of your safe evacuation plan, talk about how to plan to be in touch, if you must vacate in separate directions. We’ve told our extended family to wait a day before stressing, if they can’t get a hold of us during a natural disaster, because it may just take that long to get into a situation where we can reach them.

I know it’s not the most exciting topic, and hopefully you never need it. But as they say, “better safe than sorry.”