Disaster response observed

Earthquakes shaking B.C.’s coast and hurricanes bearing down on the eastern seaboard provide a learning experience for local officials.

Earthquakes shaking B.C.’s coast and hurricanes bearing down on the eastern seaboard provide a learning experience for local officials.

North Okanagan Emergency Management is observing how the 7.7 magnitude quake in Haida Gwaii and Hurricane Sandy in New York and Ontario are being handled in the hopes they can learn new techniques and improve disaster response here.

“There is knowledge in everything whether it’s mistakes made or everything is done perfectly,” said Brent Watson, emergency preparedness co-ordinator.

Saturday’s earthquake rocked the islands of Haida Gwaii and was felt throughout the province. A tsunami warning was enacted along the west coast and as far away as Hawaii.

Along the Atlantic coast, Hurricane Sandy has contributed to high tides and pounding wind. In New York City, thousands of people were evacuated from certain areas while transit and airports ground to a halt. Wind and rain warnings have also been in force in parts of southern Ontario and Quebec.

Watson anticipates response information from the quake and hurricane will be provided to groups like his through the Emergency Management Association.

“A lot of the stuff that comes out of the States comes to B.C. first,” he said.

In B.C., there are 57 hazards that have been identified, everything from a meteorite striking the earth to a chemical spill.

“Our plan is developed to respond to everything,” said Watson, adding that while the scope of the disaster may vary, the people and techniques involved are constant.

“We respond the same way to all of them.”

NOEM had a busy year, including wildfires, mass flooding along the Shuswap River and residential fires.

“Floods are tough because there are a lot of expectations but there’s not much you can do to hold back the water,” said Watson.