To this day I can still visualize my parents sitting at the breakfast table every morning sipping coffee while they listened to the news on a portable radio. As a kid I didn’t really care or pay too close attention to what was being reported but I do recall hearing about court cases, politics, workplace and car accidents, house fires, and on rare occasions, natural disasters.
From time-to-time we would learn of a major earthquake, storm or drought somewhere in the world that claimed lives but nothing like what we see or hear about on a daily basis today. To be fair, we weren’t as connected back then so half the time we didn’t know what was going on outside of BC or Canada.
Nonetheless, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a disaster related to a weather, climate or water hazard occurred every day on average over the past five decades, killing 115 people and causing some US $200 million in losses daily. Notwithstanding better reporting/recording of these events in recent years, the number of disasters has increased by a factor of five over the last 50 years, although the number of crisis-related deaths has decreased almost threefold since the early 70s.
WMO notes that storms and floods have caused the most damage (economically) over the years but because of climate change, we’re apt to see more heatwaves, drought and wildfires in future…events that our province has become all too familiar with in recent years.
Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer earlier this week with my board colleagues from TIAC, we passed through the town of Lytton, that in June 2021, recorded Canada’s highest-ever temperature at 49.6 Celsius (121 Fahrenheit) and a day later burned to the ground. Along the journey we could also see the swollen Thompson River, which acts as a tributary for the Bonaparte River that has breached its banks and wreaked havoc in Cache Creek this week. It’s the worst flooding the town has experienced in 50 years.
Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma has frequented news channels recently warning of more flooding in some areas of the province in the coming days due to rapid snow melt. Just a few days ago it was because of heavy rain. Now Minister Ma is warning residents to take precautions because of extreme heat. And that’s on top of the wildfires in our province and in neighbouring Alberta.
On many days, climate-related emergencies have replaced politics, crime and other issues as the lead news story online and within more traditional information sources such as radio, television and newspapers. Just today, one local radio station started its newscast by interviewing consumers who were snapping up air conditioning units at home improvement stores in anticipation of a hot weekend and summer.
Tomorrow marks the end of Emergency Preparedness Week in British Columbia. Although it hasn’t received the attention that Tourism Week did a couple of weeks ago, for me it was reminder to encourage our industry to review, update or develop emergency plans that support that safety of visitors, the viability of tourism businesses, and our reputation as a safe and welcoming destination. In the story to follow this message, you will see resources to help you not only prepare for imminent emergencies but guide your disaster preparation efforts for both the short and long-term. You’ll also find excellent information on various websites (e.g. Destination British Columbia, TIABC, the regional tourism associations – BCRTS), related to the four pillars of emergency management including crisis mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
I’ve picked up my parents’ daily ritual of listening to my portable radio for daily news while sipping a coffee first thing in the morning. Many days I wish the lead story was not about the latest natural disaster at home or abroad. In either case, emergency preparedness will continue to be a priority for TIABC for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether its Emergency Preparedness Week in BC or not.