On Sunday, May 4, the Times-Colonist enveloped its regular edition with several pages of do’s and don’ts under banner headlines EARTHQUAKE 1-2-3 and ARE YOU READY FOR THE BIG ONE?
A useful service with the theme “be prepared” in need of constant repetition because most of us are not prepared though we all plan to be. And those of us who have taken the time to stash away emergency supplies still need a nudge now and then to remember they need to be checked to make sure food, water, and basic medical supplies – including prescriptions – are in reasonable shape and good supply.
Most of the advice in the four page imitation of a regular edition listed commonsense actions and reactions as handed to the TC by four or five government agencies. Unfortunately the NOW WHAT? list of things to do once the earth starts or stops shaking appears to have been put together by someone organizing a Sunday school sing-along and piously re-printed by the T-C without thought to reality.
Items 1 -3 on the 10 things to do when the earth stops shaking lists “checking yourself and your family members for injuries and to help others nearby” as the first responsibility. Next – reunite with loved ones at your pre-arranged emergency meeting place and third – locate your pets and place them in a safe place.
While all of that leaves us with a nice feeling of mum and dad being at home and in calm control when the big one hits it doesn’t quite fit in with another priority number one listed for when the shaking starts and threatens Tsunami. It bluntly states that if you live near the water, which a lot of us do – “a strong earthquake is your signal to move to higher ground immediately….DO NOT WAIT FOR OFFICIALS TO TELL YOU TO MOVE.”
In other words get out and high as fast as you can and make sure your family is as safe as its possible to make them before you start calling for the pet that probably fled for safety before you even caught the first rumble.
I’m not nit picking. I just think the people trying to prepare us to face disaster are too scared to tell us what the chaos and the pain will really be like. They present us with check lists, recommend behaviour it would be difficult to portray when the world is collapsing around you.
If we are lucky our BIG ONE will hit late on a cool summer evening with the children home from school and dad just home from work. All first responders, paramedics, fire and rescue services and police will be at full strength but ready to be boosted by off shift firemen and policemen who will be expected to leave their families to cope as best they can while they race off to serve the common good.
If fortune is not so kind the giant crunch of tectonic plates will happen in the dark of a new day as high winds and torrential rains sweep our shaking Island. Too late then to look for emergency kits. Too late to break for safety. Only one thing to do – and I have suggested it before when writing on responses in time of fire and flood and other natural disasters:.” Keep calm and carry on”. An old slogan treated as a bit of a joke these days, but some of us are old enough to remember when it was coined and recited as mantra when the devastation and death of a BIG One visited us every night.
It kept a people together then. And it can again.