Drop, Cover And Hold: Communica's Earthquake Preparedness

June 10, 2015

Last month, the federal government held its 20th annual Emergency Preparedness Week. In an effort to bring widespread awareness to different risks in your area, this year’s theme was “Know the risks. Reduce them together!”  The hope is every Canadian will develop a plan, know the risks and feel comfortable in their surroundings, should they find themselves in a natural disaster.  To further our commitment to workplace safety, Communica held our inaugural earthquake drill in the Vancouver office coinciding with Emergency Preparedness Week.

Communica is no stranger to natural disasters. Almost two years to the date, Communica’s Calgary office was amongst those affected by the 2013 Alberta floods. Displacing our team for 257 days, it was a sobering lesson on the sheer magnitude of natural disasters.

According to Natural Resources Canada, the Pacific coast is the most earthquake prone region of Canada. British Columbia is lying adjacent to the Cascadia Subduction Zone which has been building pressure for thousands of years; pressure that could release at any moment. Out on the west coast, we speak often about the possibility that ‘The Big One’ will rock the shores of our coast. Sadly, in Nepal this past April we saw the devastating effects and the vast amount of destruction an earthquake can cause.

With this in mind, we decided to put our team to the test. Everyone followed the Drop, Cover and Hold procedure with “shaking” lasting 90 seconds. Following the shaking, we counted for 60 seconds to account for any aftershocks and the settling of anything that may have been dislodged or fallen. As our office has many large glass windows, we simulated some broken glass made out of red paper to make sure that everyone was aware of their surroundings.

Using situational cards, we encouraged team members to locate their desk side earthquake kits. While Communica has a large emergency preparedness kit in the office containing the recommended food, water and necessities for up to 72 hours for each member in the office, we also outfitted all of our workstations with small kits, in case anyone is trapped at their desk. These kits include:

  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Non-perishable food item

Being mindful of hazards, our designated safety coordinators led the group through the emergency exit route to the muster point. Following the evacuation we came back to the office and debriefed the event to make sure everyone felt comfortable with their role and what to do. We discussed how better to prepare our office, homes and vehicles for potential emergency situations. For more information on this, see these helpful sites from the federal government and the provincial government.

Our next office wide drill will be during the “Great British Columbia Shakeout” held on October 15th; we encourage you to join us and hundreds of other schools and businesses!

– Shannon O’Byrne