Be Prepared, Not Scared

By Lillian Ireland.

Just over a year ago, British Columbia experienced a harrowing flood, impacting and altering life inland and in many areas along the coast. 

Folks came from across Canada to help with the devastation and aftermath, offering psycho-social and logistical support as well as boots-on-the-ground assistance.

Close friends had been caught between two massive mudslides along Highway 7 and waited until the next day before they were rescued. Fortunately, they had purchased food just before leaving on their trip. They were able to share what they had with strangers also trapped along the highway. The next day, people from nearby First Nations communities went along the route guiding folks to safety.

At the time, my daughter and I were living in a small cabin near Cultus Lake. We decided to take a break and go home before her classes resumed the following Monday at the nearby college. It was a good decision because within hours of our leaving, power was cut off and the road washed out. Those remaining in the area weren’t as fortunate and remained stranded with limited food and water.

Recent snowstorms were also challenging for many drivers on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. The accompanying gridlock from multiple factors caused lengthy delays and heavy frustration. Along with major bridge closures and the rerouting of thousands of motorists, the challenges were compounded by abandoned vehicles, some because they had run out of electricity or fuel.

Regardless of where you live, folks are advised to have a ‘grab and go’ kit or a ‘hunker in place’ bag including things such as extra glasses, water, food, medication, a phone charger, flares, pet food, a wind-up or battery-operated radio and flashlight, appropriate clothing, etc. Having a little cash/coin in your emergency kit is also advisable in case of power outages.

Pre-made disaster preparedness kits can be purchased from organizations such as Red Cross or St. John Ambulance.

But they’re also easy to put together yourself. Supply lists can be found online as well as through the above organizations or through municipal Emergency Support Services/Emergency and Disaster Services.
The list can be modified to suit each person’s/family’s needs and should be updated regularly. As our families grew up, we’d often give practical items like a wind-up radio, car blanket, etc. as gifts.

If you don’t have an emergency kit yet, perhaps consider getting a list, set a date and add one item weekly. You’ll be surprised how quickly it grows.

Knowing your neighbours and sharing contact information including an out-of-province contact is also wise, especially during challenging times.

Our personal creed is, ‘Be prepared, not scared.’

By being prepared, stress is reduced and life becomes much more manageable if and when the need arises.

The following two poems were written a few weeks after last November’s massive flood.

Zucchini in a Carwash

Zucchini in a carwash, who would’ve guessed?
And countless pumpkins from farm fields strewn amongst the mess,
The historical storm carried them in unrelenting torrents,
In the heaving rains, they jostled along the raging, rampant currents.

When the rains subsided, remnants remained; vegetables, pallets, debris,
With no regard for anything that had been carried down the stream.
Finding zucchini and pumpkins in such an unusual place,
Is a mere memory of a grievous year some would like to erase.

Yet, we also remember the crucial help which came from across the land,
Support, compassion, buckets and shovels as many folks lent a hand.
Others opened their hearts and also their homes, standing together in shared grief,
It’s what this country thrives upon, community and needed relief.

Times May be Tough, but Folks, We’re Tougher!

Countless stranded folks were scared and hanging tight
while evacuations continued through the dark November night.
Others showed many warm kindnesses and grace, like generosity given from the Hope Pizza Place,
Like the First Nations searching for trapped travelers on the road
helping to ease and lift their heavy loads.
Like medical staff going from car to car; others sharing water, food and caring hearts.
Exhausted pilots flying through the blustery skies
and media capturing unspeakable sights.
Plus, neighbours checking in and lending helping hands
and strangers offering to bag and place the needed sand.
Anxiety was seen in many grocery stores,
But also, “Please, you go first, you need it more.”
Helicopter meals sent from Surrey to Hope from caring communities helping hungry people cope.

Folks rose to the challenge, knowing there’d be a heavy cost as they raced against time to reduce lives lost.
Needing boats for people, chickens, horses, pets and cattle;
Getting them to safety through the raging water battle.
These were expressions of the human soul,
No compensation needed; true humanity was shown.
In these challenging times, as we all try to cope,
Are there several patterns? I think so…
The heat dome came over a year ago, then wildfires followed with a heavy blow.
Lytton, hitting 49 degrees, followed by a fire which brought them to their knees.
A tornado last November near UBC, then a runaway barge in the Salish Sea.
From unrelenting rains and grievous landslides, to heroic rescue boats and helicopter rides.
Transportation issues, where does one start?
And prayers that the pumps and dykes continued to work.
The November flood felt like a never-ending dream,
From which many wanted to awaken and scream.
Yet, these weren’t surprising, we’d been warned for many years,
Did folks listen to the First Nations say the lake might reappear?
Or to both Davids, grieving what they cherish and revere.
Mother nature had also been insistent for years,
Now, we’ve gone from complacency to her deepest fears.
Her voice has gotten louder, we can’t miss what’s being said,
We know there’s going to be more trying times ahead.
Still, there’s more to the picture if we look outside the barrel,
By using alternatives beyond gasoline and diesel.
And, coal must keep phasing out while renewables must soar,
It’s an onward trend, we need to continue opening doors.
Knowledge and cooperation in the past helped us survive,
When paired with science, these again will help keep us alive.
Hope and action both spring up, nipping at our heels,
Spinning forward actions instead of simply spinning wheels.
With COP27 behind us, let’s hope motivation moves us on,
Learning from each other, no matter where we are.
Transforming heavy grief into solutions which work,
While collectively creating a survival book.
We can still find hope amidst our hard work and our grief,
In our book of adaptations and resiliency.
Becoming proactive after knee jerk reactions,
From grassroots kitchens to united global actions.
Knowing that our actions can encourage one another,
When woven together, the tapestry is stronger.
We become more resilient as we continue to recover,
Times may be tough, but folks we are tougher!
We become more resilient as we continue to recover,
Times may be tough, but folks we are tougher!


  1. Thank you! A great timely reminder! Yes this is something we can’t procrastinate doing any more.. as we keep hearing about the disasters from far and near!
    Last night we were chatting with daughter in California and heard that the water volume in the normal quiet little creek near her house was raised from 2-3 feet to 14 in the last couple of days. Now subsidied, but anticipating another big downpour soon! Also, she got report at Xmas eve that her sample measuring equipments deployed on the research ship that was on its way to Anarctica, was very damaged by the unexpected foul weather. It’s badly disrupted the research project but also the repair cost estimates, hopefully under $100,000..:(
    It’s scary! hope we’ll learn how to be prepared for the disasters of all kinds that are to come!..

    1. Thanks for your comments. Our hearts go out to your daughter in California, what a shock!
      It’s also unfortunate that the research project was disrupted and her measuring equipment was so badly damaged. We hope the equipment can be fixed.
      We never know when/where climate chaos will strike or what other events may occur, such as an earthquake, therefore it is essential to be prepared. This also helps to reduce fear.
      Most communities have an Emergency Support Services Dept (ESS) and they are always looking for volunteers, especially for folks who may  have additional languages.
      ESS provides excellent and free training and many opportunities to serve. It’s also a great community to be part of!

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