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CONTRIBUTION · 26th April 2011
Dr. Sabina Lautensach
Living in Japan means living with the dangers of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, just to name a few. Every Japanese from the age of five participates in a yearly emergency training session that includes evacuation practices, safety issues and behavior, and emergency awareness. Yet, the speed of events on March 11, 2011 undermined many of these precautionary measures and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

It can be all too convenient to rely on government authorities to inform us of imminent dangers and to advice us of our options, but we are still responsible for increasing our own chances of survival.

You may not realize this, but each year, thousands of people in Canada face emergency situations – the current flood situation in Manitoba, wildfires, SARS, etc. – that could change their lives forever. Many of them were not prepared to deal with the situation they found themselves in.

Emergency Preparedness Week (EP Week) is an annual event that takes place each year during the first full week of May. This national event is coordinated by Public Safety Canada, in close collaboration with the provinces and territories and partners.

In B.C., local governments are required by law to lead the initial response to emergencies and disasters in their communities. They have prepared emergency plans and maintain an emergency management organization. Unfortunately, it can take quite some time before emergency personnel, volunteers, or neighbours reach you, so we must all be aware, and prepared, to react immediately and responsibly.

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, many people have been worried about possible contamination of our air, food, and water in BC. It is unlikely that people in Terrace would know how to react correctly when the alarm is raised about possible serious – i.e. life- threatening – levels of contamination.

You would be told to ‘shelter-in-place’ if chemical, biological or radioactive contaminants are released into the environment. This means you must remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there.

A pre-packed emergency kit should be available for your whole family, and a working radio is essential for receiving updated emergency instructions. Your shelter needs to be airtight, and food rations should be stored in a window-less room, above ground, which would also serve as the most secure room for you to remain in until the emergency has passed.

For further information on how to be prepared, go to these Canadian government websites:
Provincial emergency program

Dr. Sabina Lautensach,
Director, Human Security Institute, Terrace BC