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School earthquake kits missing, expired

By Sara Norman

The components of an earthquake kit. (SAFETY CANADA)

The components of an earthquake kit. (SAFETY CANADA)

Cuts in funding for Lower Mainland school districts mean emergency earthquake kits stocked with water, food and medical supplies may be missing from your child’s school.


Doug Strachan with the Surrey School District says while there is some funding set aside for emergency planning, refreshing water and food in the kits is left to parent advisory councils.

“It’s been that way for some time,” he said. “I believe the provincial government sees the districts as responsible for earthquake preparedness generally, including kits.”

According to Strachan, parents’ top priority in emergencies needs to be ensuring children are brought home.

As for the kits that do exist, Strachan calls them an ongoing challenge. Some have been the target of thefts from where they’re stored in steel crates and bins, while others are not replaced when water and food items expire because there’s no funding.

Strachan doesn’t know how many of Surrey’s schools are fully prepared. He says a survey of all 125 schools will have to be done to determine this, but adds with teachers on strike the district isn’t able to check.

“I expect the way the kits were garnered in the first place, eventually, it may take time, but they will be replaced,” Strachan said.

The Vancouver School District, which does have supplies in every school, is struggling to keep the kits up to date, according to board chair Patti Bacchus.

“We don’t really get funding for this, it has to come out of our operating budgets that are under extreme pressure.”

Bacchus also calls the kits challenging, even with a replenishing program in place, since items in PAC-created kits, like juice and food, often have shorter shelf lives than the district counterparts.

School planning for earthquakes is critical, according to Bacchus, who says teachers and students may be on their own for up to 72 hours.

Strachan says it’s not likely students will be in schools for a long amount of time following an earthquake.

The BC Ministry of Education didn't say whether money for school earthquake kits would be considered in the future, but did confirm by email the province does not provide funding.


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