Disaster rally was anything but a disaster

New Westminster’s Disaster Bike Rally was as much a learning experience for organizers as it was for participants.

The city’s emergency management team will hold debriefing sessions on Saturday’s inaugural rally that started and finished at Queen’s Park.

About 45 cyclists braved cold, rainy conditions to traverse the city.

City officials believe bicycles will be a good way to get around during such a crisis.

Emergency planning assistant Cory McLaren said one participant towed a 12-foot ladder behind his bike.

Another had tubs containing gallons of water.

“Some of them were stacked to the brim with equipment,” said McLaren.

“We didn’t anticipate how fast some of them were. Some of them hit all eight checkpoints in one and a half hours.

“Bikes are very, very valuable and we have a big group in New Westminster that are very cycle ready … They were on their A game even though it wasn’t a race, it was a rally.”

They hit eight checkpoints that could be instituted if an earthquake or a similar disaster occurs.

Their first stop was Sapperton Park, which serves as an emergency helipad if the one at Royal Columbian Hospital is incapacitated for any reason. When they arrived they had to build a paper airplane and try to hit one of three tire tube triangles set up by Cap’s Bicycle Shop to gain points.

Another stop was the Tin Man at Westminster Quay where they had had to identify what eight hazardous signs meant if they encounter them in an emergency situation.

All the participants were required to carry six eggs to replicate the transportation of medical supplies. McLaren said many of them cracked and came back with all of the yolks runny.

But some were well wrapped so they wouldn’t break.

Some of the participants wanted a longer course with more checkpoints and to work with more emergency items, said McLaren.

She asked them to email comments about what could or couldn’t be done in an emergency.

The city will hold debriefing sessions with police, fire and emergency management personnel to discuss what they learned Saturday and how it can be applied in actual emergency sessions.

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