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Too close for comfort



A month and a half ago, residents of the Fraser Valley awoke to white skies, a red sun, oven-like heat, and the scent of burning forests. It was an unsettling reminder of the destruction occurring on our doorstep, while the B.C. interior was consumed by wildfires. Yet even then, it was difficult (for me at least) to truly grasp the gravity of the situation. While I can’t speak for the thoughts and feelings of others, I noticed that the people around me, apart from occasional complaints about the smoke that filled the air, were very calm and collected, and we continued about our usual business like there was nothing wrong. I can’t help but wonder, should we have been more worried?

Natural disasters have been all over the news lately. First the wildfires here in B.C., then the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean being pounded by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and now the earthquake that struck Mexico. It is hard to fully appreciate the damage that has been done, and lives that have been disrupted or ended, if you haven’t experienced it first hand. These are all other places, and disasters only happen in other places, until they happen here. I’m sure that the people a few klicks to our east thought the same, until they were burned out of house and home. I’m sure the people in Houston thought the same, until they were flooded out. I’m sure the people in Mexico thought the same, before their houses came crashing down around them, and so on.

I can see why people have this attitude. We all have enough to worry about in our daily lives. Most of us have enough on our plate at any given time without agonizing about unlikely eventualities. So, we prioritize, and that is fine, but these things still bear thinking about, and we shouldn’t let low priority become no priority.

We have been lucky so far, but our luck won’t hold out forever, and for us here in the Fraser Valley, it may run out sooner rather than later. Here there was smoke, but there was no fire. However, the next blaze could ignite in our backyards, and we have been having very dry summers of late. The Big One could strike at any moment; we did have that tremor the winter before last. The Fraser might flood its banks next spring, especially if the massive snowfall and rapid temperature swings of this year are any indication.

Imagine if you got a phone call in the dead of night telling you that your home is in the direct path of a natural disaster, and that you have just one hour to evacuate before it hits you. Can you get dressed, packed, and out of town within the time limit? Do you know what you need to bring with you, and what to leave behind, potentially to be lost forever? If your home is ruined, do you have somewhere else you can go? Knowing the answers to these questions if and when the time comes could save you time, money, even your life.

It would also be prudent to make some preparations beforehand. Have an escape plan. Put together a bug-out bag. Make a stockpile of food and fresh water. Invest in a home first aid kit. These are relatively small things that could make a big difference down the line.

Perhaps the most important thing we can do is get into the right headspace. You, your family, and your community are not immune from disaster and tragedy, and the sooner you come to grips with that, the better off you will be when (not if) it finally happens. I suspect most of you will read this and forget about it. I probably will too. Even so, one more warning, in addition to all the others we have seen so far, can’t hurt. Though honestly, if a blood-red sun in the sky doesn’t make you sit up and take heed, I don’t know what will.

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