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Localized Emergencies

Posted on 22 June 2012

A few years ago, ice built up on the river in Prince George, created a mini-dam, and started flooding things. For the people and businesses who live alongside the river, it was an absolute disaster. It made national headlines.

At the same time, the Coldsnap Music Festival was happening. One night a bunch of music fans were gathered inside the Art Space to hear some out-of-town bands. During one of the interludes a musician got on the mic and said something like, “It’s so awesome you guys are all out tonight. I know you’re going through a really tough time and it’s great to see the city rally.”

Everyone kind of looked at each other and then figured out what he meant. He was referring to the ice jams. Being an informed citizen, he was watching the news and knew that Prince George was flooding. Never mind that the flooding was localized to a few streets alongside the river– a far cry from the whole city being underwater.

This is where I find that concept of Kiez so fascinating. Most of the people in that room probably hadn’t even seen the flooding. It’s the same thing with the floods happening now. Rising river levels are making national news, and there are states of emergency and evacuation orders in localized areas.

Even though this flooding has been happening for over a week now, it doesn’t come into my daily reality at all. I don’t live by a river, I don’t commute past or over a river, and I don’t work by a river. So I don’t see the rivers, flood or no. So while rivers just a few kilometers away are making national news, I have no idea what they look like. This is true for the vast majority of people who live and work here.

I’m interested in when a localized event becomes something that affects the whole community. The Lakeland Mills explosion seems to have imprinted on people’s minds a lot, regardless of whether they saw the blast or know someone who works there. The flooding, not so much, though the media has sure picked up on it (my employer included). But housefires can be just as devastating as a flood to the people who have it happen to them, and those rarely get more than passing coverage.

I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong. It’s just an observation I’ve been thinking about.

Edit: As I was writing this, I decided to go take a look at the river myself. I biked along Cottonwood Island Park and put some pictures on Flickr, if you’re interested.

Filed under: journalism, media, Prince George

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