Here on Salt Spring Island, where the landscape is green and things are starting to bloom, it’s easy to forget that life in paradise brings with it the ever-present risk of catastrophe of one sort of another.
The worst, of course, would be “The Big One” — a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the last one of which hit the coast in 1700. And the experts tell us that’s a problem, because these megathrust earthquakes occur in the Cascade Subduction Zone off the west coast of Vancouver Island every 200 to 800 years. So, if it’s already been 322 years since the last one, the law of averages tells us that The Big One gets a little more inevitable with every passing year. But as climate change gives us hotter, drier summers and bigger rain events in winter, we live with the danger of fire in the dry months and flood in the rainy season. And windstorms. With their surprisingly shallow root systems for a tree that grows a metre and a half per year and tops out at 100 metres, Douglas firs are easily blown over when winds reach 90 kmh or above and the soil is saturated from earlier rains. And this island is covered with them.
Human nature being what it is, we spend as little time as we can get away with thinking about the various ways in which we might meet our impending doom, but around here you’re never very far away from being reminded of the need to Be. Prepared. For. An. Emergency. It’s a safe guess that some islanders are in no way ready. Many are at least somewhat prepared, some very much so. And a dedicated few devote a great deal of time to thinking about and even training for what to do in an emergency.
Having a properly-stocked emergency kit, a plan for an escape route, and a rendezvous point in case you get separated from your loved ones is, however, not the same thing as knowing how you’re going to react in an emergency. And more to the point (because many people find reserves of courage, calm, and strength that they never knew they had during and immediately after an emergency), it tells you nothing about how people will be five or ten days down the road, when the supplies of freeze-dried food packets and goodwill towards others are starting to run low.
So here we are, in Year Three of the pandemic and on Day 14 of the “Trucker” Convoy.