Ocean Park community prepares for the ‘Big One’

South Surrey Clarence Giesbrecht aiming to create emergency-response plan for neighbourhood.

Ocean Park resident Clarence Giesbrecht is leading the charge in creating an emergency preparedness plan for his community

As someone who was born and raised in B.C., Clarence Giesbrecht has been hearing all his life about the ‘Big One’ – a large and potentially devastating earthquake that experts say is due to hit the west coast.

And, like many Lower Mainland residents, Giesbrecht admits that until recently, his personal preparedness for such a disaster was lacking, save for some extra water stashed away in his Ocean Park home.

Since joining the board of directors of the Ocean Park Community Association last fall, however, Giesbrecht has been working towards creating an emergency response plan for the neighbourhood to address the many questions that would arise should the region be faced with a major earthquake.

“How does the community of Ocean Park respond once a big earthquake hits?” Giebrecht asked. “Where does the community meet? Who stands up to give direction and guidance amongst the chaos?”

Late last year, Giesbrecht established an emergency preparedness subcommittee within the association, and conducted a survey among Ocean Park residents about their perceived readiness for a big quake. The results indicated that 80 per cent of the respondents did not feel properly prepared for a significant disaster.

After conducting some research into various emergency preparedness kits, Giesbrecht was able to secure a discount for bulk-ordered kits – available in a variety of sizes – that offer up to 72 hours worth of supplies. He said they’ve already had at least a dozen kits ordered and expect more in the coming weeks.

The response plan itself – which he and committee members are compiling with the help of the Surrey Fire Department – will determine communication protocol and meeting places, identify hazards and vulnerable structures in the community, and designate leaders and alternates for various response teams.

Among those are an overall response leader, and co-ordinators for medical, communication and transportation, shelter and caregiving, search and rescue, building assessment and fire and utilities.

Giesbrecht said more than half of those positions have already been filled by community members with relevant experience, including doctors and a former Red Cross worker.

The community association is also hosting an emergency preparedness fair May 7 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Ocean Park Community Hall, which will include representatives of BC Hydro, Fortis, City of Surrey, Surrey Search and Rescue and 72hours.ca

Leading up to the fair, the group will be posting tutorial videos on the Ocean Park Neighbours Facebook page providing information about things like turning off gas and water, among other topics.

“Something every home should know is how to turn off your gas,” Giesbrecht said. “Equally as important is that once you’ve turned it off, you’re really not supposed to turn it back on.”

To find out more about the upcoming fair or how to order an emergency preparedness kit, visit www.oceanparkvillage.com/emergencyday or email emergencykit@oceanparkvillage.com

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