Impossible to predict when disaster will strike

Taking the time to prepare for an emergency is well worth the effort

When people talk about things that go bump in the night people on B.C.’s west coast could be forgiven for their thoughts turning to earthquakes.

Few have escaped feeling the vibrations of a minor quake occurring nearby and we’ve all seen and heard of the large quakes causing devastation in parts of California. And if the experts are to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before another megaquake rocks Vancouver Island.

In January 1700 a magnitude 8.7 quake struck off the west coast of Vancouver Island, wiping out entire First Nations villages and causing a tsunami that swept across the Pacific and deluged the coast of Japan.

Quakes of that magnitude are estimated to occur every 300 to 700 years, so the question in everyone’s mind is do we have centuries to prepare or are we already overdue.

Chances are none of us will witness a megaquake in our lifetime. And even if a major quake was imminent, there is little reason to panic. The western side of the Island is expected to bear the brunt of the devastation, and with much of Victoria situated on bedrock, it should escape some of the more severe shaking. Many of the buildings in and around Victoria have been seismically upgraded in the aftermath of a major quake that rocked the Seattle area in 2001.

But there is every reason to be prepared.

In the event of an earthquake, the safest places are beneath sturdy furniture or beside a solid inside wall. People are advised to avoid windows and to avoid heavy objects that could fall from ceilings or shelves. Those outside should stay in the open, away from trees, buildings and power lines. Drivers are advised to stop their car away from overpasses, bridges and power lines and to stay inside their vehicle.

Assembling a 72-hour emergency kit is not only a good idea in the event of an earthquake, but also could come in handy if the region is struck by severe storms or other emergencies. The kit should contain water, food and other essentials that would allow you to survive for three days until emergency responders arrive.

Taking the time to make a few preparations is well worth the effort. It could be the difference between life and death in the event a major earthquake does strike, and can offer peace of mind even if it doesn’t.