Valley has ‘no clue’ about quake impact

Dan Newport’s company is Earth Quake Consulting and he means business when he talks about getting ready for the Big One.

After 30 years in the military, teaching all levels first aid and light urban search and rescue (LUSAR).

He retired three years ago and is now pursuing a new passion: making sure people don’t underestimate the devastation a big quake could cause here.

Residents "have no clue" he said.

Light search and rescue is searching around houses.

"In regular Search and Rescue or SAR, they deal with a situation where your grandfather walked away from home. But LUSAR means checking around homes, in urban areas. In the military, that meant in the married quarters. In Duncan it would be when buildings come down," Newport said. Who goes in? "I’m training a team in Crofton right now," he said.

There are lots of useful things that can be done at those times, so it’s important to see where you fit in, he said.

Everyone can help with the effort, Newport advised. From setting up camp beds to making soup or hot drinks to using a big voice to yell so survivors can hear there’s a team in the disaster area, everyone is important, he said.

He said often people don’t think about the fact that they may have useful skills.

"When everybody panics, they need a voice or two to get over the noise, to get everyone to shut up and listen and then offer direction."

His team is being trained to organize things at a central area and get searches going.

"We start off with the closest homes. We’ll start off yelling and screaming and see if we can hear anybody. If not, we do a penetration, after we do a rapid damage assessment.

That’s part of what he teaches. "That’s what my team is being trained to do. Not go out into the community but to do the search and rescue stuff. And, if they find an individual, to assess for life signs," Newport said.

Expertise is important if they find somebody trapped.

"That’s when they do their magic. They’ve got to crawl in, put extrication devices in, put them on backboards, put them on stretchers and then drag them out and haul them back to the casualty collection point.

"Then the medical team takes over. The team that brought them takes a break and a new team goes out to the same building or the one right beside it," Newport said.

They slowly go through each house, bringing those out that they can.

There is a problem, though. Younger people are not taking emergency preparedness seriously enough.

"I can’t get young people to partake. My volunteers are all Baby Boomers or older. I’ve got 70-year-olds.

"It’s because the kids are too busy with life. And it’s hard to convince the younger people that the big one is coming. They’ll say: ‘Oh, I know. I’ve got my little jump bag and it will hold me for six hours.’ So, I say: ‘Yeah. Wait until you’re trapped for four days.’" His group of 12 is mainly 65-plus.

"I’ve got two 35-ish like my wife and one of her girlfriends from our church but all the rest are 65-ish and plus. Younger people need to realize that this is important and they need to know at least the basics of what to do in an emergency," he said.

All it takes is once a month for two hours, Newport said.

"But at least my own people, once it all hits the fan know how to be team leaders when all the younger people come out. They, with their sore backs and broken knees, will be in charge telling the others what to do, they’ll supervise from outside as people go in to haul people out," he said.

"I’ll be able to do onsite training as well, but I’ll probably also ask, ‘where were you three years ago?’ Nothing happens until it happens and then people go off the deep end. They need to get ready now," he said.

Many communities don’t realize that they are facing significant difficulties if a big earthquake hits. Lake Cowichan, for example, is looking at locating their emergency centre at their sports arena and community centre, which is way across the river from their fire department and their ambulance facility, he said.

In addition, the roads to communities like those at Cowichan Lake will be completely blocked with fallen trees and poles.

People there must expect to function on their own for some time after an earthquake, Newport said.

Newport’s team wouldn’t need an official call if a big quake hit.

"We would just swing into action," he said.

"They’re anticipating a 9.0 quake or stronger. It’ll be soon. They’re down to within the next 50 years," he continued. "If we have a big one, there will be a lot of people who will be trapped, maybe for days. If you have a major bleed, within an hour you’re dead.

"But people who are just trapped, who just can’t get the leverage to get out from underneath the roof, that’s where we come in. We try to get them out."

A challenge for anybody interested in preparing is make sure there is an accessible container full of emergency gear that is checked regularly and that has several keyholders out in the community so someone can get into it in an emergency.

Crofton has a sea container to hold equipment and supplies and Newport is trying to get it opened and restocked so it’s ready, too.

"Then, after the earthquake, once the team has gathered, I go to the container and start setting up for triage," he said. "I have in routes and out routes already planned. And ambulances, as they become accessible, can start doing their chauffeuring back and forth to the hospitals, wherever they may be.

"If not, we have to put them somewhere with anybody with any first aid coming in. We also have to have a morgue area for those that don’t make it.

"I’ve got paramedics living in our town and they’re ready to help. It all depends on where they work. Even if they have to come in from the north or south side of Crofton, there are all the poles, the trees and the bridges. We are confined. We’re going to be pretty much on our own and people aren’t seeing that.

"They’re not listening. The CVRD says, ‘Within three to five days we’ll be there.’ It won’t happen. Because you’re not going to repair bridges that quickly. You’ve still got to get your own infrastructure together. And it’s going to take longer if we have a nine. They do have a good plan. For the city of Duncan. But for the outlying areas they are responsible for, it’s going to be a while.

"So the population must whack down their own telephone poles if they are lying across roads, use the firewood, cut up those downed trees and use the firewood for burning, clear the paths and let someone else look after the bridges," Newport said.

He is setting out to change attitudes, with unfortunately only limited success so far and just in Crofton.

Other communities really need to be sure they have at least started this work, Newport said.

"There needs to be a plan for small communities. There are no standard operating procedures, no book for the towns. Having a book would have to mean that somebody knows what’s going on."

The CVRD has a training syllabus but it needs to be properly funded, he said.