Spring is in the air in the Canadian Rockies.
The crocuses are beginning to bloom and bears are out of their dens, marking this important seasonal transition for our flora and fauna.
But it is also a time of year where we humans who dwell on this landscape should be taking the time to recognize the different risks and hazards that are at play and can, without warning, affect us.
When it comes to wildlife, it is important to keep in mind recommended safety measures when recreating outdoors. Carry bear spray, keep dogs on leash and if possible, travel in groups and make lots of noise.
Being aware of your surroundings can provide a strategic advantage to outdoor recreational users in this area. Bears leave behind a lot of signs that they are around, you only need to pay attention to notice them.
The Town of Banff hosted an online wildfire forum this week to inform Bow Valley residents on the latest research around wildfire risk, and how climate change is affecting risk in our region.
The forum also covered how Parks Canada is prepared for wildfires and ways residents can use FireSmart techniques to better protect their homes.
While all levels of government have a role to play in protecting this valley from catastrophic wildfire, residents also have a role to play when it comes to their property.
We have seen several summers in the recent past where wildfire smoke from British Columbia has affected this valley. We have yet to be in the direct path of a wildfire, however, but with the amount of fuel available for this kind of natural disaster to occur, it behooves us to be prepared.
Emergency preparedness isn't just a buzzword government agencies turn into an awareness week each year. It is vitally important that as residents of this valley we are prepared for the worst case scenarios. Those who do not already have a "go-bag" in the event of an evacuation, should seriously consider putting one together.
There are plenty of recommendations on what to put in this "break glass in case of emergency" kind of kit. When a crisis strikes, having a plan and bags packed already will save time and frustration.
This also applies to the last major natural disaster we experienced as a valley in 2013 – mountain creek flooding – as well as the potential for overland flooding from the Bow River. These are also risks to our communities we should be prepared for.
We want to highlight these risks, not to create fear, like many critics falsely claim is the goal of the media. We think a full awareness of the risks present for residents of this valley is key to being prepared to deal with them when they occur.
That includes the current public health crisis COVID-19 presents. The pandemic has demonstrated for many there are those who find is difficult to understand risks that are not immediately visible or experienced by them.
In this case, it is a microscopic virus – you can't see it coming and chances are you won't even know it has infected you until you begin to have symptoms.
Risk assessment and situational awareness are two skills that every person should develop in order to navigate this complex world we live in and the variety of risks we face. Being prepared for multiple scenarios that could occur is just smart planning.
That kind of planning is being undertaken by the various stakeholders and government agencies that are responsible for managing these types of events when they occur. Individuals should be doing the exact same work – whether it is remembering your bear spray or having an emergency evacuation kit ready.