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Quake response improved, but Cowichanians must also prepare for crisis safety

Then-B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond and Speaker Bill Barisoff take part in earthquake drill at the B.C. legislature late last year.  - Don Denton/Black Press
Then-B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond and Speaker Bill Barisoff take part in earthquake drill at the B.C. legislature late last year.
— image credit: Don Denton/Black Press

Recent earthquakes off B.C.'s coast prompted some questions from valley residents while North Cowichan's mayor was basically happy with Victoria's response time.

Still, Jon Lefebure advised folks to inform themselves about emergency-centre sites while building a fast-grab quake kit if the big one hits.

"I heard someone from the province talking about improving their (tsunami) response time, so I'm confident the provincial government is looking at it," he said of near-instant social media news of a 6.3-magnitude shaker off B.C. on Nov. 12.

That quick blat through twitter and emails was relayed across B.C. after word from the U.S. West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre.

Reaction reaction was a vast improvement on a one-hour delay in telling B.C. residents of a 7.7-level trembler off Haida Gwaii Oct. 27.

Lefebure said Cowichan is relatively protected on the island's east side, and we'd learn quickly if a tsunami struck the west coast.

But that's cold comfort to Duncan's Linda Hodding.

She was terrified after scrambling for news about her daughter's home that shook during Haida Gwaii's October quake.

"If she hadn't called, I'd never have known about it.

"I felt disconnected from what was going on. I was afraid my family would be wiped out, and no one would know about it; I felt helpless."

Hodding simply wants all dependable quake and tsunami alerts possible — through the net and other sources— including sirens.

"Sirens give us a chance, anyway."

But Lefebure wasn't sure sirens would do much good.

"If there's a large quake,we'll know because the ground's shaking.

"We do have sirens in Duncan and Chemainus for the fire departments, but informing citizens about emergency response centres is really important too," he said, noting one Chemainiac was unaware her crisis centre's in the Chemainus Seniors Drop-in Centre.

While regional emergency staff must inform folks about quakes, Cowichanians must also tune in.

"I expect over the next few years we'll have very good websites, and it'll be up to people to access those for information," Lefebure said.

"We won't go door-to-door to tell them; they'll have to take some responsibility for keeping informed.

"It could be a fair amount of time before individuals get help after a big quake."

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