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Spring Gillard
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Quaking in Kits

I have had my emergency preparedness kit for some time. Problem is, it wasn’t really a kit. The contents were stored around the house in various closets and cupboards. Definitely not in grab and run condition. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan prompted me to get my kit together this weekend. A horrifying reminder that my little apartment in beachside Kitsilano (Kits for short), is in the Pacific ring of fire, a 40,000 kilometre horseshoe in the Pacific Ocean basin, where ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes occur. The tsunami warnings on our west coast amplified the urgency. As for the jet stream or air current that could carry radioactive fallout as far as British Columbia, I have no idea how to prepare for that possibility.

I was teaching a section on food security in a social sustainability course at Simon Fraser University on the weekend. The earthquake in Japan brought food self-sufficiency into sharp reality for us all, demonstrating how fragile the food system is and how vulnerable we all are. We have heard for years that there are only three days of food on grocery store shelves at any one time. So if the big one hits and food shipments are cut off, we need to be able to sustain ourselves for seventy-two hours. But if we get hit with a 9.0, it is likely there won’t be any stores left, let alone any food. The blueberries and herbs I grow on my balcony might survive, if my three-storey wood frame apartment building doesn’t collapse. And that would only help me if it was summertime. It is likely many of the community gardens in the area would be decimated too, including the one I belong to at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. So fresh food supplies will be very limited.

If my apartment stands up to the quaking, I do have a freezer full of homemade soups and stews, but if the power goes out, the provisions won’t last long, especially in summer. The dried beans and grains in my cupboard wouldn’t do me much good without power either, but the pickled and canned goods would. I feel fortunate to have close relationships with many of my neighbours in my building and I know we’d be sharing and helping each other. Still, not feeling too food secure. Better learn more about foraging, canning, preserving and drying foods, or connect with neighbours who have these skills. Time to join Village Vancouver, a neighbourhood networking group.

So I now have seventy-two hours worth of bottled water packed into a large backpack on wheels, along with canned and dried goods, a blanket and most of the other items recommended on the Canadian government’s basic emergency kit list. I have a small butane kettle with fuel so I can boil water. Not so much for instant soup, but because I would die without my morning coffee. I keep an emergency supply of ground coffee in my freezer, which I have noted on my emergency last minute list.

While googling around on this topic, I discovered my own Kitsilano Community Centre is an official Emergency Social Service Centre, one of ten Vancouver sites. They are offering a neighbourhood emergency preparedness workshop on May 3rd. Think I’ll sign up. I have no idea what to do in a Tsunami. In Kits, running for Higher Grounds, means getting to the coffee shop at Broadway and Vine as fast as possible.

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