If you ask your Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director about emergency evacuation plans for the Coast, be prepared to answer their first question: “Have you signed up for Voyent Alert?”
At the Sept. 14 SCRD committee meeting, chairperson and Sechelt area director Alton Toth suggested all on the board promote awareness of the emergency alert service, following a recommendation in emergency program coordinator Nancy Hughes’s update on emergency evacuation planning for the region. Her message: while full details for every scenario can’t be in place in advance, tools for individual preparedness can.
Hughes’ basics for personal preparedness included signing up for Voyent Alert, preparing personal and family “grab and go bags” with essentials and critical documents to be ready to evacuate efficiently, and having in-home emergency supplies to last for 144 hours of sheltering in place. That is an increase over the 72-hour self-reliance time span recommended in previous years.
She also stressed the importance of accessing “reliable sources” such as local, provincial and federal government information when making preparations and for instructions on what to do should an emergency occur.
“Emergency preparedness is a life skill, just like learning to swim,” Hughes stated, noting that, “apathy is one of the biggest enemies of emergency preparedness.”
Resources being built and improved on
Voyent Alert notifies subscribers by text, email or telephone call about emergency situations for areas each registrant selects. It has been offered within the SCRD since December 2021. On July 7, its local use faltered after a spill of a road maintenance compound created hazardous driving conditions and temporarily closed Highway 101 between downtown Sechelt and Trout Lake. The alert came out after the highway was re-opened and the map provided missed the impacted location by about 50 kilometres. In the days that followed, SCRD emergency program personnel advised Coast Reporter those glitches were oversights and “we are working to rectify this for future notifications.”
Hughes stated that the province provides templates for the development of evacuation plans and that the regional emergency program “started small by doing smaller neighbourhoods first." Plans for three Coast areas (Egmont, Tuwanek and the Bluff/Bay area of Gibsons) are posted on scrd.ca. She said plans for other areas would be developed by working with community and neighbourhood associations and that those would then feed into a region-wide plan.
How evacuation plans are created
Hughes walked meeting attendees through how an evacuation plan for an emergency situation would be developed. Using the Aug. 31 wildfire discovered north of Wakefield Creek (since extinguished) that had the potential to impact the West Sechelt area as an example, she displayed a “bulls-eye” map that was prepared for pre-planning purposes. It showed the fire’s location at the centre surrounded by a three-kilometre perimeter circle, the area emergency program personnel had estimated could be at risk.
Should an evacuation have been necessary, a more detailed map and a listing of impacted residential properties would have been produced. Those would be used, along with supporting information on evacuation routes and reception centre locations in door-to-door residence notifications. Colour-coded flagging tape would be used to mark homes notified and identify ones where an occupant may need assistance, with a corresponding list of each property’s notification status maintained. A map showing community infrastructure sites, such as hydro lines and cellphone towers within the evacuation area would also be produced and used to notify and work with the authorities responsible for those sites.
– With files from Keili Bartlett