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Is BCIT prepared for an earthquake?

What you and BCIT can do to prepare yourself for an unexpected natural disaster

When "the big one" comes, this will explain why. But not when.

When “the big one” comes, this will explain why. But not when. Photo courtesy Natural Resource Canada

Three words: drop, cover, hold. If you were to pick out the most important words from the information provided online regarding BCIT’s emergency preparedness, those are likely them, according to Teresa Sharp, who runs BCIT’s emergency management department.

“Get personally prepared because you will be on your own at least for 72 hours,” advises Sharp, who also does personal preparedness presentations at BCIT. “In the event of a severe earthquake, everyone will be affected, so aside from ensuring your own safety the next important thing is to make sure your families are safe, so you will then be focused to help others.”

Sharp says it’s important to stay put after an earthquake stops, to see if there are any aftershocks. After ensuring your own safety, see who’s injured, before carefully walking out of the building. Sharp says to continuously assess and be prepared for dangers such as aftershocks and falling debris, and be ready to seek cover again immediately.

Although these steps may seem straightforward, Sharp feels they are important.

Natural Resources Canada’s latest geological survey says that the west coast of Canada is one of the few areas in the world where four tectonic plates meet and interact with three different types of plate movements. This results in significant earthquake activity and makes the Pacific Coast the most earthquake-prone region in the country.

“We get earthquakes all the time; every day, but we don’t feel them because some of them are very small,” Sharp advised.

Sharp left the west coast before the 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit central BC on October 24, and headed for the US east coast, not far from Hurricane Sandy. She recently returned to BC from the Universities and Colleges Caucus at the International Association of Emergency Managers conference in Orlando.

“The conference continued despite many cancelled sessions because of attendees returning to the east coast to respond to the event,” said Sharp. “Much conversation centered around … how Obama and Romney were handling the situation.”

In terms of how BCIT would handle the situation, Sharp says the institution has a very good emergency program: “Over 10 per cent of the staff at BCIT are on one of our emergency response teams.”

Sharp encourages members of the BCIT community to register for BCIT Alert, a warning alert system designed to keep the BCIT community safe and connected to key information. BCIT Alert is only used in urgent or emergency situations to send a short message to a cell phone, e-mail address, or voicemail.

“We do the test on the same day as ShakeOut BC,” says Sharp of BC’s annual earthquake drill, “so we can use the alert test as an opportunity to also promote ShakeOut BC.”

Sharp says the BCIT community can access information, some of which is campus-specific, on BCIT’s website under “Safety, Security & Emergency Management: Personal Preparedness.” If you don’t go there, just remember those three words that might save your life: drop, cover and hold.[hr]

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