Monday, 29 July 2013

Bicycle Emergency Preparedness

Victoria Emergency Management Agency teamed up with the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition to run a disaster relief rally dubbed the Tour de Disaster. Along with 39 other participants, I loaded up my bike and cycled through the obstacle course that was laid out to simulate what we could face after an earthquake hit our shores.

After checking in, I scoped out the bikes. I spotted four cargo bikes, three whose owners I already knew. I stood close to Xtracycle 005 and introduced myself to its owner, Joanne. We decided to team up for the drill together with Sara and Bill. We were nervous and could not come up with a great team name, not that it was necessary for the assignment. We checked each other's bikes out, asked questions, gave tips and marveled. We were packed to the gills, covering so many different bases - a shovel and hard hat to dig through debris; feminine products, diapers and baby wipes to supplement the first aid kits' bandages; drinking water, toilet paper, para cord, fire steel, sleeping pads, canned goods, bubbles, teddies and a crystal ball to offer hope for lost loved ones.

my team members Joanne, Sara and Bill

There were many news outlets that came out to report on the rally. One camera man was particularly interested in our team, asking us where he should stand to see us off. I envisioned what it would be like to have news crews reporting on a tragedy while volunteers arrived to an aid station. Would I be uncomfortable with their presence as I was now? Would the sensationalism be as intrusive as it was this morning? Or would it be a lifeline, a way of documenting that we were in fact rebuilding and getting help to people. Could we broadcast to those less affected by our disaster that we were coming together as one group: volunteers - either by foot, bike, or motor vehicle - to rescue those in need?

We had seven legs to complete, one rocky terrain to cross and one place to lift our bikes over a barrier. New tasks were given to us at the beginning of each leg: to bring something fragile to the next check in point; to be careful of imagined broken electrical wires; to find a lost person; to gather information. We were encouraged to collaborate with other volunteers, as team work would serve us greatly in times of need. People were intrigued by the number bibs we were wearing and we told them we were part of a disaster relief simulation. Another passerby asked if we were doing a marathon! Not quite... I was hot and hungry and feeling tired at the half-way point. Thankfully, Joanne had some nuts and dried fruit that she shared with me. My rice crackers and water weren't sufficient at all!

We finished the rally in just under two hours. We stretched and chatted while we waited for the other participants to finish. I bragged about not having to walk up Finlayson St, and sought shade from the noon sun. I felt great about being able to complete the challenge with just three months of cycling (as an adult) under my belt. It was a longer distance and more hills than I am used to biking, but there were less stops to tie someone's shoe lace or give a snack to. There was a participant who toted a cooler filled with ice cream! I was super grateful for this treat. Ice cream has a way of righting every wrong, no matter how old you are.

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