Column: Preparing for the big … whatever

Earthquake preparedness is crucial, but it's good to be ready for the wide range of curve balls life can throw at you

As the sun blazed down on another glorious spring weekend in the Lower Mainland, a coworker and I spent most of our Saturday inside a room with no windows.

For eight hours, there were lectures, combined with practical, hands-on lessons and ongoing assessment, all capped off with a written exam.

My reward for all that (imaginary) blood, all-too-real sweat and (thankfully no) tears? A small paper card, stating that I am now qualified to render level 1 first aid.

With 17 people, including the instructor, jostling for space on the carpet as we practised bandaging wounds, clearing airways and delivering CPR, it’s not how I necessarily would have chosen to spend a sunny Saturday.

But I doubt I would — or could — have been doing anything more important.

This particular course was focused on occupational first aid, directed mainly at people who work in inherently dangerous environments, around heavy or otherwise potentially hazardous equipment. But the life-saving skills taught are, of course, readily transferable to the world at large.

The timing (though a complete coincidence) was somewhat appropriate, too, as we mark Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada.  This year’s theme is Plan. Prepare.  Be Aware.

Living where we do, of course, our focus is on earthquake preparedness.

And that makes sense.

Ensuring we can make it on our own for at least 72 hours — and, let’s face it, potentially a whole lot longer — before emergency aid can get to us after a major quake, could be the difference between life and death for ourselves or our loved ones.

We asked last week, how many people feel they are prepared (as much anyone can be, at least) for a major disaster. The results were surprising, with 60 per cent of respondents to our (admittedly unscientific) poll indicating they feel they would be ready.

Anyone who feels they could stand to know more about earthquake preparedness should stop by Willowbrook Shopping Centre on Saturday,  between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to try out the Quake Cottage and enter to win a grab-and-go earthquake kit.

But it’s not just the ‘Big One’ that should concern us.

Shaking ground aside, there is an endless list of potential emergency scenarios that might require quick action to save a life — anything from a car crash to a sudden heart attack, to drowning.

We know that it can happen anytime, anywhere. And when it does, it’s important that there be someone who can step in and do what needs to be done to keep the victim alive until “real” help arrives.

Obviously, there are already plenty of far more qualified people out there, to whom I’d happily defer. What I don’t want is to be one of those people standing around staring, without a clue about what to do to.

Nearly four days into my new status, I remain untested, and in a perfect world, I’ll stay that way. But who knows if or  when I or one of my 15 classmates will be called into action.  If it happens sooner rather than later, though, we’ll be glad it’s a lesson we didn’t save for a rainy day.