Mayors in the Sea to Sky region are urging residents to prepare themselves for the eventuality of an earthquake in the wake of a destructive shake-up near Sendai, Japan.
The earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and caused almost 9,000 deaths, has stirred a wave of concern on the west coast of British Columbia, a region that is due for a major quake of its own.
Sea to Sky mayors are encouraging people to be prepared in case an earthquake should ever come. Communities such as Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton all face issues related to access due to landslides along the Highway that links them with the city.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said it's important for residents "never to be off guard."
"What's happening in Japan is yet another reminder," he said. "By now most local governments have got very comprehensive emergency preparedness plans, in fact it's required."
Whistler's preparedness works as follows. The municipality has a part-time Emergency Program Coordinator who is responsible for management and coordination of emergency response and recovery activities.
Training courses and exercises are held every year to ensure that municipal staff can respond to emergencies. An earthquake would trigger an emergency operations centre (EOC) that would see representatives from the municipality, the RCMP, the BC Ambulance Service and BC Hydro report to share information and facilitate response coordination.
The Whistler Emergency Social Services team will also provide short-term assistance to people in Whistler who need food, lodging, clothing, emotional support and family reunification.
The municipality also recommends that people residents keep an emergency preparedness kit that would give them enough supplies for 72 hours. A kit would include items such as water, food, spare batteries and instruments that can be powered by a crank.
In Melamed's own case, he just bought a crank-operated flashlight and plans to get a crank-operated radio and perhaps a battery charger as well.
"What we should all be doing is putting it in our calendars and making it a regular maintenance item," he said. "There's a sense of personal responsibility that goes with this stuff. There's only so much government can do, so everybody needs to be aware that they have a responsibility and inform themselves of that responsibility."
The story is a little different in Pemberton, a valley community that lies about 30 kilometres north of Whistler. Access to the city is even more difficult for residents there and Mayor Jordan Sturdy is suggesting that people put together a preparedness kit that will have enough supplies for a week.