In the wake of the severe windstorm that hit the Lower Mainland last weekend – and the subsequent power failures that left thousands of BC Hydro customers without electricity as of Tuesday morning – one has to wonder what an honest-to-goodness crisis in this region would look like.
Although one can't minimize the damage the violent gusts wreaked on trees and adjacent powerlines, this was not, after all, a tornado, an earthquake or a tsunami.
It's sobering that it only takes a strong wind to show us how thin the veneer of civilization is for a society so reliant on electrical devices.
The laugh was on us – and it wasn't simply a matter of being without lights.
Many realized quickly that all their lines of communication – not to mention information and diversion – were instantly severed or subject to very finite limits. Computers were down, big-screen TVs were out. Even such rechargeables as cellphones, iPods, iPads and laptops were quickly running out of juice – sending people running for places to plug in.
Traffic signals were out, increasing the dangers of travel for those seeking electrical relief. Garage doors would not open and people were stranded outside of apartment buildings that could not be accessed other than by a key-pad. Refrigerator and freezers-full of food were spoiling within hours after the power went off, and the appeal of using the family barbecue as the only cooking option quickly paled. Restaurants, if they were fortunate enough to have power, enjoyed an unexpected business bonanza as people spent out for meals and lingered in coffee shops.
All these are First World problems, indeed – and would be laughable, if they didn't point out just how vulnerable, ill-prepared we are for any deviation from our comfortable norms, let alone the kinds of tragic devastation that we have seen visited on other parts of the world.
When the comforts of our technology-addicted society are suddenly denied us, we need to use it as an opportunity to test our self-reliance. We would be foolish indeed if we didn't let this latest incident serve as a lesson to renew our emergency supplies, and make sure we are equipped with survival basics.
We should make sure we are all equipped with adequate amounts of non-perishable, nutritionally sound food, water, cooking and boiling facilities, first-aid kits and lighting and communication devices capable of working off-grid, to enable us and our families to survive a protracted period – a week, at least – without being a drain on the help of outside agencies.