Friday, June 10 marks the final day of Exercise Coastal Response that took place over three days in the Alberni Valley.
Canada’s first, full-scale earthquake and tsunami response exercise involved stakeholders from all levels of government as well as Emergency Management BC staff, First Nations, Crown corporations, critical infrastructure owners and non-government organizations involved in provincial-level response. All groups collaboratively work to respond to the impacts of a catastrophic event along coastal B.C.
The exercise was executed to test the elements of the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan.
“From the perspective of the City of Port Alberni this is an opportunity for us to test our preparedness and it’s an opportunity for us to also test how we interact with other agencies both provincial and federal,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan during a VIP tour of the facilities used in the exercise on Thursday, June 9. “I can tell you there’s lots of lessons that are worth learning and there’s some changes that we’re going to have to make as a city and that’s the whole point of doing it.”
The B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan is the first component of a comprehensive provincial plan for earthquake response, and it sets the conditions for the subsequent planning efforts.
“It’s not the matter of if there’s going to be a huge earthquake, it is when,” Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness. “This is B.C.’s most massive exercise testing elements of the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan. This is so important because we know that B.C. is in the highest risk area for an earthquake.”
Yamamoto said there’s a one in three chance that in the next fifty years there’s going to be an earthquake.
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The B.C. government has invested $1.2 million into Exercise Coastal Response.
“This is a good test of how prepared we are in terms of emergency responders but we’re really concerned that the majority of British Columbians aren’t as prepared as they could be. That means not just having an emergency kit at home it means having an emergency plan,” Yamamoto said.
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne agrees that both families and communities need to be prepared for a major earthquake and should start with a 72 hour plan.
“I think this is what it takes and practicing right from school children going underneath their desks in an earthquake simulation right up to the entire Alberni Valley undertaking an exercise like this,” Osborne said. “We need to go through this [exercise] to know if we are prepared and what we can learn. Nothing is ever going to roll our perfectly, the more and more we’re able to exercise and plan for these things the better prepared we are in the end.”
Families and individuals can find a guide on the PreparedBC website that outlines appropriate emergency preparedness plans.
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