Climate change makes emergency planning more urgent — official

Port Coquitlam to reach out to vulnerable, isolated individuals to help them come up with a disaster plan

Severe storms, wildfires and flooding associated with climate change is making emergency planning even more critical, according to one city official.

And those Metro Vancouver residents who are in denial and have not yet planned for an emergency or disaster are not doing themselves any favours, says Tara Stroup, emergency program officer for the city of Port Coquitlam.

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Citizens will have to come to grips with the knowledge that that they will have to look after themselves for the first 72 hours after an emergency, she said, that means having a communications plan, food, water, emergency supplies and even money on hand for daily actives.

“We want people to have their own plan, everybody needs a plan,” said Stroup, who is leading PoCo’s emergency planning team.

But what about those who are mobility challenged, hearing impaired, isolated, are frail elderly or who have small children at home, how can the city ensure these people have a plan in place?

That question keeps Stroup up at night as she and her team of volunteers work on disaster scenarios and planning strategies for the city.

Emergency planning
Severe windstorms caused by climate change are just one of a number of natural disasters residents should be planning for, says Port Coquitlam's Tara Stroup. - File

Her group is working on a Critical Community Assessment Index — essentially a map of the locations of people who might need extra assistance in coming up with an emergency plan.

Similar to information that Port Coquitlam Fire Rescue uses to get information about residents — and typically gleaned during tax time when the notices go out suggesting people provide the city with information — the index will list who needs extra assistance.

Stroup’s volunteers will then work with these individuals and help them develop their own plan because there is no guarantee an emergency responder will be able to provide help within that 72-hour period.

“I’m fairly anxious about this and the need to have a coordinated effort and making sure everyone in our city is prepared,” Stroup said.

One key aid will be a new publication “Are you Prepared”, the city produced to help residents plan and deal with an emergency.

The 36-page guide, available for free at city facilities, lays out everything from what supplies to have on hand, to how to plan for children and pets. It will be a life-saver if a disaster happens because being in book form, is not reliant on power, and contains steps to take even after an emergency has taken place, including how to cope with stress and who to contact to deal with recovery.

“It’s important they put this in their emergency kit and save it,” Stroup said,”At least you know you have the information you need.”

For anyone who might be complacent about emergency planning, Stroup lays out a number of potential disasters from a megathrust earthquake, a hazardous rail disaster, to flash flooding and a severe windstorm that could knock out power, and disrupt lives.

But instead of scaring people with potential scenarios, Stroup would rather reach them with “tenderness and kindness,” she said, and a message of hope. 

“We need to plan for all these kinds of events,” she acknowledged. “We’re trying to make it as easy as we can.”

Ongoing training is also available at the city’s new emergency preparation training facility. For more information, visit Volunteers are always needed, contact 604-927-5460 or

Emergency Preparedness Week was May 5-11.

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