A Misty Isle of earthquakes

  • Jan. 9, 2013 8:00 a.m.

by Jane Wilson–I know exactly what I’m supposed to do in an earthquake. I’m supposed to “Drop, cover and hold on,” meaning that I’m going to get under a sturdy desk or table and hang on, which is going to prevent me both from being hit with flying objects, and from running outside and standing under power lines. It’s not a complicated task, but it’s still not what I actually do, since we’ve had so many earthquakes I’ve become excessively relaxed about the whole thing.What I really do during an earthquake is engage in lively debate with whomever is around about the relative size and distance of the quake. While the shaking is still going on, I’m standing up in the middle of the room calling out things like, “I’ll put $5 on 5.5, 100 kms away, 7 kms deep,” and then insulting everyone else’s predictions and fashion choices. “3.2, what are you nuts, we couldn’t even feel a 3.2, and what are you wearing on your feet? Maybe I would respect your predictions if you weren’t wearing holey-soles, but you are, so you probably don’t have any balance anyway.”I realize it’s like being in a boat that is taking on water and instead of assessing risk, or bailing, having a discussion about how fast the water is rising. “No, no, it’s coming an inch a minute, two inches is crazy talk, if you had been in as many sinking boats as me, you would know that we have another 10 minutes of flotation. I’ll put $10 on knee-deep in five minutes.”The problem, of course, is that as the shaking gets worse, it’s then too late to climb under something, and then it’s over. All there is to do at that point is look awkward, swear to do the right thing the next time, and cough up the five bucks before heading off to high ground.In Port Clements, we head over to the village office, where those people who have homes in low-lying areas gather, apparently after taking the time to put on proper pants. Everyone seemed very relaxed this last time as they waited out the potential crisis, and were free to admire my pyjamas, because nobody told me about the pants thing. “Nice pyjamas,” said ironic local fireman Ryan Brown, who then admitted he was still wearing his under his uniform.In Queen Charlotte, the public panicked briefly and then remembered that CAO Peter Weeber would use his emergency management superpowers to save them all. Residents did not return the calls I didn’t make to fact check this story.North end residents have apparently developed an unusual crisis management plan called, “Grab a pie and run” after October’s earthquake hit during a wedding reception. “We take our pies seriously here in Masset,” said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. In the second part of the plan they drive up the hill, and spend their evacuation time walking up and down and critiquing the way other people choose to park. After safely reaching high ground, residents waited out the warning and stood down when the all clear was issued. Unless they listened to CBC radio for information, in which case they are still out on the hill waiting. Someone should probably tell them they can come back inside now. I like to think I’ve learned a little something from the emergencies, mostly that next emergency I’m bringing both pants and pastry. I like the way those north end people think. Email me at jane.wilson@hgqci.org if you want to share what the emergencies have taught you, or if you know who made the pants decision without telling me, because that was not cool.