03/25/2014 07:41 EDT | Updated 05/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Cyclists will play vital role in disaster reponse, says B.C. city

New Westminster Police, Fire and City officials will hold an event May 10 that is part bike rally and part emergency response drill.

The Amazing Disaster Rally will take cyclists through a 25-kilometres course that includes emergency-related challenges and checkpoints.

The New Westminster Police Department's Insp. Phillip Eastwood says the event will help demonstrate the role cyclists can play in emergency response.

"An eye-opening experience"

"In a large-scale disaster when the roads may be compromised, one of the best ways of getting around, transporting equipment and medical supplies, and even messages, would be by bicycle," said Eastwood. 

"It will be an eye-opening experience for a lot of people," he said.

Challenges in New Westminster's Amazing Disaster Rally include moving supplies around and demonstrating and understanding of fire safety and emergency preparedness.

Participants, who must be 19 or older, will be given envelopes with various instructions and will need to safely carry bottled water and various cargo.

Eastwood said the responses in 2011 to the 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan and to the 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, demonstrated the advantages of having a bicycle.

Following the lessons learned from those disasters, the City of Victoria held the Tour De Disaster Cyclist Emergency and Disaster Response Rally in 2013.

Since then, Victoria's Emergency Management Agency has put together a volunteer "cycling response team."

New Westminster's event is set to coincide with B.C.'s emergency preparedness week, which is May 4 to 10 this year.