As spring fast approaches, residents of Merritt know that so too does the annual flooding season. Warmer temperatures and resulting snow melt can produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. During the early spring, frozen land prevents melting snow or rainfall from seeping into the ground. The water then runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams, and rivers, causing excess water to spill over their banks.
That’s why the Herald reached out to Emergency Management Coordinator, Krista Minar to shed some light on what to expect for this year.
“There are a number of things we encourage residents to do,” says Minar.
“The first thing is to know where to get the right information, and that comes from the City’s website and social media pages as well as Voyent Alert! There are free services and you can receive alerts from Voyent Alert! Via mobile app, text message, email, or voice call. The information that comes from Voyent Alert! comes directly from the city.”
It is important to prepare for emergency situations before they happen, adds Minar. There are a few types of kits that you can prepare to be ready for a worst case-scenario. The first is a 72-hour emergency kit.
“The 72-hour kit varies based on household, but generally contains non-perishable food, water, phone charger or power bank, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, and any prescription medications you may need, personal toiletries and some clothing. There is a full list of items to have in a 72-hour kit that you can find online,” said Minar.
The second type of emergency kit available is the grab and go bag. This is a bag located in either your workplace or vehicle that includes ready to eat food, water, phone charger and battery bank, and a small battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
“The grab and go bag is one I really recommend, it’s for when you are out working or out of the house and you aren’t able to get back home after a warning is issued,” says Minar.
“The grab and go is to make sure that you at least have something that you can pull from, it’s basically a smaller version of the 72-hour kit but both are super helpful.”
Part of being informed about the situation is understanding the terminology associated with the given emergency. When it comes to flooding there are three terms that need to be understood: High Streamflow Advisory, Flood Watch, and Flood Warning.
“High Streamflow Advisory means that river levels are rising or are expected to rise rapidly but that no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible and residents should think about preparing a 72-hour emergency kit,” explains Minar.
“Flood Watch means that river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed bankfull. Flooding of areas adjacent to the affected rivers may occur and you would want to have a 72-hour kit ready and think about preparing a grab and go kit Flood Warning means that river levels have exceeded bankfull or will exceed bankfull imminently. Flooding of areas adjacent to the rivers affected will result.”
Another suggestion for residents who may live in a floodplain is to do a walk around your property to understand where the water is coming from.
“Once you’ve identified the hazards you can formulate a plan on a case by case basis, the plan might include a sump pump or a change in landscaping to prevent water from coming near the house. If you have gutters coming off of your house we recommend they be at least two meters away from the base of your house to prevent water building up there,” recommends Minar.
The final suggestion is for families to have a discussion about what it may look like if there is an emergency situation.
“Due to uncertainties in day to day life, it’s important to make sure that if you have a pet or a member of the family with limited mobility that there is a plan in place to make sure they are taken care of if you cannot make it back to the house to get them,” said Minar.
“It’s really important to know that if you can’t make it to pick them up that a neighbor or family member is able to stop by and scoop them up.”
Minar also said that on the Government of B.C.’s website you can find the emergency preparedness guide, which has a number of suggestions for possible steps to take. The guide is also available in print at the Merritt Fire Hall.
To find the full list of items in 72-hour preparedness kits visit the City of Merritt website at www.merritt.ca/emergency-preparedness/.