Editorial: One year later

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As the calendar inches towards Christmas Day, it’s hard for Gulf Islanders to not look with trepidation at the Dec. 20 date in between.

It was one year ago on Dec. 20 that an unprecedented windstorm — with gusts estimated as high as 120km/h at tree canopy level — uprooted thousands of trees, which also resulted in downed power, phone and cable lines, damage to homes, outbuildings and vehicles. Miraculously, no one was killed by falling trees or utility poles on our islands that day.

Clean-up and damage repair continues to this day, with plenty of physical evidence of the disaster still visible. Psychological impacts are another issue altogether, as the storm was trauma-inducing for many individuals.

Salt Spring’s Emergency Program and other emergency service agencies have spent considerable time in the past year assessing their response to the storm, dissecting what worked well and what could be improved.

A number of training opportunities for citizens have been arranged, including a workshop series held at the library and two recent Salt Spring Emergency Resilience Training multi-night sessions with hands-on activities for smaller groups.

More workshops on topics such as FireSmart, generators and food security are in the works, and another SSERT session is being planned for late January.

Islanders should take advantage of opportunities to learn more skills for dealing with disasters and to help mitigate them in the first place. They should also investigate the Emergency Program’s pod system to determine which pod their home belongs to and provide information about special needs or resources their family may have and, if possible, to volunteer in whatever capacity is needed. Making emergency prep plans with neighbours can also be done informally.   

Ensuring emergency supplies are adequate and periodically refreshed is another action that individual households can take.

Many of us will be prompted to talk about last year’s storm during this one-year anniversary period. We also need to act on that talk, taking what we learned individually, as families, neighbourhoods and island wide to better prepare ourselves for the next emergency situation that will inevitably come our way.

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