Saanich ready for Thursday’s Great ShakeOut

District set to showcase emergency notification page

Mayor Richard Atwell and Capt. Maegan Thompson have an emergency grab-and-go backpack on the front of a Saanich fire truck. Every member of Saanich staff and local services will participate in the Great ShakeOut

With three storms on the forecast, a lot of people went into last weekend thinking about how they would spend the time inside.

Others ensured there was an umbrella near the door.

For Capt. Maegan Thompson, the storms were another opportunity to make sure the Saanich Fire Department was locked in step with the district’s, and region’s, many emergency preparedness programs and resources.

From the moment she awoke Thursday until Sunday she had BC Hydro’s website open, checking for outages.

Granted, the storm didn’t live up to the hype on the South Island, though it did bring in heavy rain. Vancouver Island School-Based Weather Network data confirmed Friday had the heaviest rain, as Swan Lake picked up 13 millimetres of rain and Cordova Bay 11mm. The Elk Lake Rowing Club measured 40mm between Wednesday and Saturday.

But even a little storm can do a lot of damage, which keeps Thompson busy as the emergency program officer.

“The timing of the three-storm weekend, and Thursday’s Great ShakeOut, couldn’t be a better opportunity to remind people about being prepared,” Thompson said. “It’s a good reminder to have both an emergency kit and supplies to sustain your [household] for a few days, in case you need to stay in, as well as a [shorter-term] emergency grab-and-go kit.”

For example, a grab-and-go kit has an individual bottle of water, or a few, as opposed to several litres of water, which residents are recommended to have in case of an earthquake or tsunami.

Ahead of every heavy or extreme weather event, the province’s Ministry of Environment will hold a conference call. On that call will be an expert that officers such as Thompson can draw on for information.

“Not every storm is expected to be a huge concern but we try to be in a state of readiness all the time,” Thompson said. “We do a lot of training of staff, and co-ordination between the fire and police, staff, volunteer services and other agencies.”

This week’s Great ShakeOut event is hoping to register a million people this year (homes, schools and businesses can register at

During ShakeOut, Saanich will showcase its emergency notification page on the new website at It’s the first time residents can be instantly alerted to significant information about emergencies on a Saanich web page.

“It’s very exciting for us,” Thompson said. “We tested the emergency notification page on the new website before it went live, and now we’re ready to practise it so residents can see what that looks like.”

Saanich Fire will also activate its emergency operation centre and department operation centre on Thursday, in co-ordination with the ShakeOut.

Thompson also heads the annual springtime emergency preparedness program that goes into all 24 schools within the jurisdictional boundary of Saanich. It also outfits all Grade 4s with the basics for a grab-and-go bag, as well as a list of household items to complete the bag.

“Really it’s about awareness and readiness for residents, that we all need some kind of support in the home,” said Mayor Richard Atwell. “Planning plays a big part in emergency preparedness and also readiness to help not only yourself and your family but also your neighbours.”

Saanich is holding a series of free Emergency Preparedness workshops this fall: Oct. 25 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre; Nov. 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Pearkes Recreation Centre; and Dec. 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Gordon Head Rec. Register for the courses ahead of time.



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