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Just ask Angie: Finding fire bans, water restrictions, emergency alerts

Where to find the most up-to-date essential information
Just Ask Angie file
Angie Theilmann is a information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre. She has a biweekly column with the Coast Reporter.

Q: Where can I stay up to date on things like air quality, fire bans, water restrictions and any local emergencies over the summer? 

A: There are lots of resources out there that can help you stay up to date on local environmental concerns and emergencies. 

Emergency alerts: If you haven’t already registered or heard of the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) emergency alert system, the service is called “Voyent Alert!” Once registered, alerts go straight to your phone, email or get to you in the form of a voice call. The types of alerts include information about any emergency incidents on the Coast, evacuation routes and your distance from incidents. (As in, you’re not getting bombarded with information, it’s really meant for emergencies.) To sign up and find out more, go to: www.scrd.ca/alert-system. For general questions about this or if you need support registering, call the SCRD’s general line: 604-885-6800. 

Water restrictions: Restrictions vary depending on which water system you are on on the Coast. Staying up to date means you’ll know what is allowed at any time in this dry season ie. Is today the day even or odd addresses can water gardens? Is it still OK to wash my boat? For SCRD water conservation info: www.scrd.ca/water-regulations . Contact: 604-885-6806 or email infrastructure@scrd.ca. For the Town of Gibsons: www.gibsons.ca/water-restrictions or call 604-886-2274. Or, contact your local private water authority. 

Fire and burning bans: The fire department section of the SCRD webpage will tell you the latest on fire and burning bans (https://www.scrd.ca/fire-departments/) and posts regular updates. You can link to each SCRD volunteer fire department from this page, and they have area-specific information listed there. If you still have questions, or to get information via phone, contact your local fire department or the SCRD directly: Gibsons and District Fire Department:604-885-6870 (non-emergency); Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department: 604-885-6871 (non-emergency); Halfmoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department: 604-885-6872 (non-emergency); Egmont and District Fire Department: 604-883-2555 (non-emergency), SCRD main office: 604-885-6800. 

The Sechelt and Pender Harbour Volunteer Fire Departments operate independently from the SCRD, and have their own webpages with fire ban updates: Sechelt Fire Department: 604-885-7017 (non-emergency) www.secheltfiredepartment.ca; Pender Harbour Volunteer Fire Department: 604-883-9011 (non-emergency), www.penderharbourfire.com. 

To report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviour that could start a wildfire in B.C., call 1-800-663-5555 or (*5555 from a cell phone) as soon as possible. As well, call BC’s Wildfire Information Line for fire danger ratings, regional fire prohibitions and wildfire activity: 1-888-336-7378 (3FOREST). 

Air quality: Air quality has really affected the Coast in recent years. For many with smartphones, you might have access to air quality updates on the weather app of your smartphones or via social media like Twitter. But one useful website for local air quality updates is www.aqicn.org. This website is via the World Air Quality Index Project, a non-profit promoting air pollution awareness. You can use their website or download the app on the computer or your phone. When I searched Gibsons, I got to choose between air quality monitoring stations at Gibsons Municipal Hall, Langdale Elementary and Horseshoe Bay. And, whether I search Gibsons, Egmont or anywhere in the world, when the information comes up, it will tell me how long ago it was updated ie. 5 minutes ago or 2 hours ago. 

Beach water quality: It’s swimming season! If you’re curious about water quality at your favourite spot, you can refer to Vancouver Coastal Health’s Public Beach Water Quality website: www.vch.ca/en/service/public-beach-water-quality. The website includes a list of beach closures and also an interactive map to see if any swimming bans are in effect, if water quality testing is in progress, and links to historical testing data. For questions, contact your local government who can provide more information about how a particular beach is monitored. 

Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Note: on some days, we can book clients after 2 p.m. Contact us: help@resourcecentre.ca or 604-885-4088