UVic’s emergency planning manager breaks down the university’s flood plans
On May 11, the Government of Canada released an in-depth risk assessment of natural disasters that could impact communities across the nation. In the breakdown, Victoria was highlighted for flooding risk.
“As the climate changes, coastal communities are increasingly experiencing the impacts of flooding as storms intensify, erosion rates accelerate, sea levels rise, and ice thickness and duration change,” stated the report.
Victoria is not the only community flagged, as 13 per cent of the Canadian population resides on a marine coast. The report also explained that major flooding in a coastal city can have a domino effect on the rest of the country in terms of goods and services, and economic and cultural services.
In light of the high risk, UVic has plans in place to make sure that the campus is ready to take on whatever disaster may hit.
Rob Johns is the manager of emergency planning at UVic, a division that is responsible for any threat that may impact the campus. In an interview with the Martlet, Johns explained that the university takes an all-hazards approach when it comes to preparing for events such as intense floods.
Within the all-hazards approach, the emergency team usually goes through four phases: planning and preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.
According to Johns, there are many teams that could respond based on the severity of the hazard, and that some hazards already have checklists, or even full plans, in place to work from if they were to occur.
“Let’s say [there] was flooding in a building, we have a process by [which] we start small and then work our way up as we need to add more resources to the response,” said Johns. “If they need more support, they can draw on other teams that are available.”
Johns also explained that the teams help to distinguish different needs on campus. If a residence building were impacted by floods, residence services has specific plans in place to help relocate students.
The emergency teams, however, don’t give special priority to newer buildings or more expensive lab equipment over older buildings.
“The thing to keep in mind with all of our buildings on campus, they’re all important,” said Johns. “They’re all purpose built, they all have things within them, or processes, or people working or studying within them or researching in them, that they’re one of a kind that you can’t recreate that quickly somewhere else.”
UVic doesn’t only have plans in place for buildings and student safety in the event of a flood. Valuables such as paintings that are hosted at the Legacy Art Galleries and all over campus also have special plans in the case of flooding or other natural disasters.
To ensure the artwork is as safe as possible when it’s installed, Legacy Art Galleries does a risk assessment to see if it can stand the risk of being exposed. Based on this evaluation, if the artwork is selected to be displayed outside of the gallery, it is protected by plexiglass. If a disaster were to threaten the piece, the gallery would be contacted immediately.
When the artwork is stored in Legacy Art Galleries’ vault, alarmed sensors are used to detect if water is seeping in. As a representative for Legacy explained in an email to the Martlet, “Objects are stored at least six inches off the floor to have some protection should a flood occur.”
Legacy Art Galleries also works with BC Heritage Emergency Response Network (HERN) to stay up to date and continuously refine their natural disaster protection plans.
No matter how ready UVic’s teams are for natural disasters, students are also encouraged to plan accordingly.
“[Take] personal preparedness seriously, and just [take] those simple steps, [arm] yourself with information and then [take] action in your own home, with your own friends and family is really important,” said Johns. “Don’t be too apathetic about it, take some initiative … do something.”