The devastating fires that swept through West Kelowna and the Shuswap this week are a reminder of how quickly life can change in a disaster. More than 50 homes have been destroyed. Residents fled with only brief time to escape the flames roaring down the hillside.
They have been heartbreaking scenes. And the hills West Kelowna are in many ways not so different from those on the North Shore. The threat of an interface fire here is also very real.
That’s where advanced planning is so important.
Fortunately, on the North Shore we have some excellent resources in North Shore Emergency Management, which this month got a boost to its community emergency preparedness fund. It will help make sure those who need evacuation can be brought to safety, especially given the North Shore’s challenging geography and transportation corridors.
Individually, we also have a responsibility to have our grab-and-go kit stashed and ready. Copies of critical documents, medications, some precious family photos, a back-up hard drive of important files, a blanket and water, even some spare pet food, can all get packed up in advance. Have a plan for checking in with family members. Download the Alertable app to get advance warning when danger suddenly flares up. Know your neighbours.
Anything we can do to help ourselves in a disaster helps keep emergency responders out of unnecessary danger and frees up resources for those who need it most.