Heat domes, wildfires and flooding: Get prepared now for the next emergency, experts say

Jackie Kloosterboer has worked with people caught in emergencies for more than two decades, and time and again she’s seen how simple planning could have helped them through the catastrophe.

Kloosterboer, who is the City of Vancouver’s emergency planner, spent her summer working out of Chilliwack with her staff to help people who were forced to flee due to wildfires. A few months later, she was working out of Abbotsford to help those affected by flooding. 

“There was the one family that had been evacuated from Merritt this summer and the mom with the two kids went one direction, dad went the other direction and they had a heck of a time trying to find each other,” she said.

She and others say the past six months in B.C. have provided a stark reminder of the importance of having home emergency plans in place when hazards like heat waves, wildfires and flooding occur.

Jackie Kloosterboer, an emergency planner with the City of Vancouver, is pictured with the city’s downtown skyline in the background on Dec. 10, 2021. (Ben Nelms)

UBC’s Ryan Reynolds, who studies emergency planning and household preparedness, said the effects of climate change on weather patterns are happening as predicted and now affecting places like British Columbia.

“I don’t want to say I told you so but it’s what a lot of us were thinking in the back of our minds,” he said.

“We knew this was happening and people weren’t listening.

Last year B.C. Hydro released a report that said 20 per cent of British Columbians feel more prepared for a storm-related power outage after stocking up on household supplies for the pandemic — despite not having an emergency kit or plan.

The report, including a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, was called Stocked Up but Unprepared: How COVID-19 Preparation has Created a False Sense of Storm Season Security.

Data from the utility said there had been a 117 per cent increase in electricity-damaging storms in the province, from 52 storms in 2014 to an average of 113 in each of the past three years.

It says an average of one million customers are affected by storm-related outages each year. 

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