So far B.C. hasn't been affected by any of the floods, fires, tornadoes and natural disasters affecting other provinces and countries this summer, but the sobering message from Emergency Management B.C. is that it's only a matter of time and people should be prepared.
"With climate change and the increase in number and severity of disasters, we can no longer look to other parts of the world and say 'that's terrible,' because we're now seeing it hit closer and closer to home," said Kelli Kryzanowski, manager of integrated planning for Emergency Management BC. "It's important for people to realize that it can and does happen in B.C., and in fact we did see a lot of funding go to tragic events last summer."
The best thing that people can do, says Kryzanowski, is to educate themselves about the risks for their area, and to maintain an emergency kit that can sustain their family and pets for a minimum of three days — the national standard put forward by Public Safety Canada.
For Whistler, the main concern for emergency crews is fires, with previously logged areas overgrown with fuel and homes built into the interface from one side of the valley to the other.
There are also risks of power outages, earthquakes, rock slides closing the highway, floods, snowstorms and other extreme weather events.
People need to be prepared to vacate their homes on short notice, as well as to hunker down while other disasters are mitigated.
"The most important thing for people to remember is to have those (three day) kits," Kryzanowski said. "You can buy kits at various outlets that are premade, but even if you decide to go that route we recommend that you open them up and personalize them for you and your family because when you're evacuated you can find yourself in an uncomfortable position.
"So take a look at what's in there. Are there comfort foods you like or that your kids like? Do you have a familiar blanket and stuffed toy for your child? Those sorts of things will ease the stress for them."
As a pet owner, Kryzanowski said it's also important to ensure you have pet food, pet medications and other supplies set aside.
"You run into situations where people will refuse to evacuate because of their pets, or evacuate with nothing for their furry family members," she said.
Jeff Haack, the Emergency Program Coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said that authorities do have plans and procedures in place to handle emergencies, and have assessed the risks for various kinds of natural disasters. Residents can visit the website (www.whistler.ca/emergencyprogram) to get an up to date copy of the 2012 Hazard, Risk and Vulnerability Assessment.
On the website people can find out if their homes are located on a flood plain or in a forest interface that's at risk in the event of a fire, and take steps to prepare for those things.
"It's not a matter of 'can,' it's a matter of 'when' will it happen," he said. "Some emergencies we're less vulnerable to than others, but it's almost certain that at some