By Pauline Kerr
We have already been hit with our first thunderstorm of the season, and chased wind-tossed recycling bins down the road.
Storms happen. We have power failures. Toxic spills are a real danger, considering the materials being transported through our towns and villages. There are fires, explosions, and other man made disasters in addition to whatever Mother Nature can throw our way.
When emergencies strike, we rarely have enough lead time to stock up on toilet paper and bottled beverages, much less first aid supplies and flashlights.
This is emergency preparedness week across Canada. It serves as a reminder that spending a few minutes updating our home emergency kit, can put us in a much better position should one of those 100-year storms that are now occurring every decade hit this area.
When it comes to emergency preparedness, the idea is to be self-sufficient for the 72 hours it takes for help to arrive on a large scale. The family with water, food and any needed medications frees up first responders to help others in more desperate circumstances. When rescuers and resources are in short supply, those who are not part of the solution really are part of the problem.
Times change. Technology changes. Family situations change. That hand-written list of medications, prescriptions and medical information from the last time the emergency kit got updated is probably in need of attention. Spare flashlight batteries tend to migrate to the toy bin, the envelope of cash in small denominations disappeared about the time the kids learned to order pizza for home delivery, and even tinned food has expiry dates. Since COVID-19 is not going to disappear if we have a tornado, it might be an idea to add masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer to the emergency kit.
Every now and then, someone writes a semi-humorous piece on what frightens us versus what is actually likely to harm us, for example, the Zombie Apocalypse as opposed to an F3 tornado. While the former is undoubtedly scary, the latter has actually happened not too far from here. We are, after all, living on the northern edge of the infamous Tornado Alley.
Ever since the movie Jaws, there are those who are terrified of sharks at our lovely beaches – although sharks live in salt water, not fresh. What they should be afraid of are the dangerous currents and high waves.
People are afraid of bears, and although the creatures have been known to visit this part of Ontario, we should be more fearful of the gentle deer that wander onto our roads, resulting in deadly (for both deer and humans) collisions.
We may not take thunderstorms seriously, but we should. They are likely to impact more people than an average tornado, and damage from severe thunderstorm winds is more common than from tornadoes.
Climate change is a whole lot more than a theory to be debated by politicians. Flooding used to be a problem every spring. Now severe rainfall events can cause flooding any time of the year. The danger is compounded by aging infrastructure – a lot of communities have storm sewers that should have been replaced decades ago.
A lot of flood plain mapping was based on the model of the 100-year storm. However, storms of the 100-year magnitude are occurring much more frequently, at least every decade. The pressure to build homes near rivers, lakes and other scenic places has never been greater, but neither has the danger. There are some communities that get flooded on a regular basis now. Whether people should be living there is a question to be answered by elected officials and, unfortunately, the insurance industry.
Our once fairly dependable weather has become erratic – more droughts and floods, more storm events, weird winters characterized by thaws, warm weather in December and cold snaps well into May. It is something everyone, from senior levels of government to municipal planners to the person restocking the family emergency kit, must consider.
Alien invasion versus climate change … climate change wins that one.