COLUMN: Being prepared for the unpredictable

How many times do people have to be told that they should expect, and be prepared for, a major emergency?

How many times do people have to be told that they should expect, and be prepared for, a major emergency?

Last Saturday was another sharp reminder, although for some folks, it was just another opportunity to complain about government services.

For those who somehow expect weather forecasters and emergency crews to be able to fully anticipate and

“fix” natural events like last weekend’s storm – Wake up! Get real! Get ready!

Even the best available technology provides nothing more than a prediction and a varying measure of foreknowledge of what nature might do. In this case, the experts knew a storm was on the way, but did not expect the winds to be as fierce and sustained as they were.

There’s one thing we can reliably expect from Mom Nature, and that’s she can be unpredictable, especially now in a world involved in climate change.

A few hours’ warning would not have done much good for the great majority of people.

Authorities can’t stop trees – still in foliage and therefore much more vulnerable to the force of high winds – from toppling down on electrical wires.

And that they did, by the thousands, for about six hours straight.

It was the worst storm in nearly a decade. Winds hit 94 km/h in Abbotsford. More than half a million BC Hydro customers in Lower Mainland lost power – nearly 30,000 in Abbotsford alone. There’s no way enough resources can instantly be on hand to deal with that.

Hydro put some 400 workers in the field, and called in crews on holidays and from across the province to assist. They worked 16-hour shifts to repair the damage and restore power.

Given the scope of the event, I’d say those individuals did an absolutely outstanding job, and I for one am extremely thankful for their efforts.

Ditto the police, who got blitzed by phone calls on Saturday – 130 of them storm-related, mostly about downed trees and vehicle damage. Their resources, too, were overwhelmed. Response was prioritized by danger levels.

And while on the subject of vehicles, there are a lot of drivers out there who need to brush up on the four-way stop rule. On at least three occasions, I saw a driver blow through an intersection without stopping, either oblivious to the fact that the lights were out, or unaware of traffic rules, or simply impatient. No doubt some of them are making a visit to an ICBC facility this week.

Here’s a simple suggestion about driving in storm conditions: Unless you have to – don’t. Stay home.

Yes, it’s all dark there.

The TV doesn’t work. Neither does the computer. Or the stove. Or in some cases, the phone.

But you’re prepared, right?

You’ve got flashlights and batter-powered lanterns. You’ve got a battery-powered radio to listen to the news.

You’ve got a plan for family members to follow in case they’re not home when the calamity strikes. Even if cell service is still up, the millions of panicky or just plain pointless calls will likely jam local capacity, so you have alternate numbers to call out of the area to communicate with family.

You’ve got water, and food that doesn’t spoil, and all the other things that are in a basic emergency kit.

You might even have invested in (and maintained) a small generator that can be used to keep your freezer or fridge running.

You’ve done all these things because you know that last Saturday was really peanuts compared to what might occur in an earthquake or extreme winter storm, when the situation gets really serious – for more than a few days.

And you’re glad for all the work by emergency crews, who will be free to look after the folks who really need help.

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