Be prepared before disaster strikes

Emergencies and disasters can strike no matter how careful you are; be prepared to deal with them when the time comes.

You can’t escape it even in a small town. Accidents happen everywhere. You can’t prevent an accident, so it’s how you deal with it that matters.

Last week I reported that Ashcroft Council was worried about what was being transported in the dozens of rail cars that roll through town daily.

You can’t prevent every accident, but you can minimize any unexpected disaster by anticipating problems and being prepared.

Avoiding anything that might cause a disaster is, unfortunately, impractical. We would have to rip out our highways to prevent trucks hauling hazardous material. We would have to ban air flight because a jet crashing in the middle of town could be quite detrimental to local business. Ban all industry and businesses that use any type of toxic chemical…

I remember, years ago when I was a teenager living in Windsor, one of the big paint stores caught fire and hundreds of people in surrounding neighbourhoods were evacuated because of the toxic fumes.

Fast forward to 1991, Taylor, BC was evacuated when a pocket of methane caught fire during testing at a natural gas processing facility – in the centre of town. It caused a series of explosions and seriously compromised the big processing plant just a short walk away as the pipeline lays, Westcoast Energy.

At a community meeting a few days later between residents  and company officials who answered questions, some of the residents were irate to find out that the natural gas industry posed any sort of threat to the town, even though everywhere you look are warning signs for the high pressure gas lines running under the town.

However, the evacuation was about as smooth as it gets because town officials were prepared. No one demanded that the industry leave town. And people became more interested in the municipal emergency preparedness group afterwards.

We can lobby the government to force safety compliance on companies and industries, but until then, we need to be prepared and know what to do in case of emergency.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal.