Normally we are aware of emergency situations as they occur – not remotely shy, emergencies. Everyone knows when the weather is bad or an earthquake has occurred. We feel con- cerned, we seek information or assistance. The Gibsons water contamination situation was unexpected, un- precedented, and totally un- noticeable. Unfortunately, the Town’s Boil Water Advisory response was equally quiet. Notices were posted in some public areas and on the internet, but nothing screamed to the general public HEY, WE’VE GOT A HEALTH-THREAT- ENING SITUATION. The advisory was issued at 3 p.m. on a fine Friday afternoon. I had already shopped, been to the library, and picked up my mail and local papers. No cell phone, and I’m barely aware that radio still exists. I have a computer, and normally I access Facebook a couple times a week to see if any additional grandchild photos are posted. If I had not gone on line, then the earliest I would have found out would have been Monday IF I went to the mailbox. This is not acceptable. When I moved to Gibsons in 1990, a loud wailing air raid-type siren would sound to summon fire fighters. Something similar could be used today. If I heard a siren, I would know to check with the Town’s website, and people could turn on their radios if they didn’t have comput- ers. Another possibility is cars cruising the streets with loudspeakers, and of course residents would be urged to tell each other. It’s fine to adhere to a protocol on how information is posted, but the first step is simply to inform the public that an emergency exists.
It is unrealistic to expect a silent alarm to be heard. It is also unrealistic to expect the general population to be roused to action by high tech means. Computers and cell phones are by no means universally affordable, and owners aren’t equally sophisticated in their use. The next time a similar situation arises, we need a fast way to alert everyone.
Maureen Goldman Gibsons