Community evacuation planning meetings are being held throughout the region to help people be better prepared to deal with emergency situations.
qathet Regional District manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms said the meetings have been organized so they are “somewhat neighbourhood-oriented.”
“What we want to do, as we review and rewrite our evacuation plans, is to get out and have a dialogue with neighbourhood residents,” said Thoms.
A lot of the hazard assessments for this region, especially regarding wildfires, show what has been seen historically as neighourhood-scale impacts, not something that is stretching from Saltery Bay to Lund.
“What we see, time and again, is impacts to a neighbourhood, albeit a large neighbourhood,” said Thoms. “Some of the historical fires could cover hundreds of hectares, but that is still nowhere near the size of our region.”
To contextualize the need for evacuations for those attending the meetings, an example would be if a fire happens on a windy day in the summertime and gets away from responders. Looking at the scale and speed of evacuations has been a big part of these community meetings.
“There’s a really important role for our local governments, and our provincial government, but certainly for us as residents,” said Thoms.
An important consideration with the community evacuation planning meetings is to support home and neighbourhood evacuation planning. Thoms said there are a lot of things that can only be done, or best be done, at the home or neighbourhood level, working with family and neighbours, gaining an understanding of what to do if an evacuation becomes necessary.
“Whether it’s a fire or a hazardous material spill, or some other event happens, roads can get blocked really quickly,” said Thoms. “It’s really up to us who live in our neighbourhoods to understand what our plan is if we find ourselves isolated.”
Thoms said it is important for people to look at their homes and neighbourhoods and understand and make a plan. There will be a lot of materials available at the community meetings to help support those in attendance with planning.
“We want, as we are moving forward in our regional evacuation plan, working with all of the providers, to make sure we are developing resiliency at our home and neighbourhood levels,” said Thoms.
With house fires, for example, they are small-scale evacuations and Thoms said what he sees all the time is very few people are really prepared.
“If we aren’t prepared for the small ones, it’s troubling to think how we are going to be prepared for a bigger one,” said Thoms. “The meetings are about helping people think about that.”
The focus of the meetings is evacuation planning for all hazards, however, and discussion will also include earthquakes, hazardous materials and other pertinent topics.
“It takes all of us looking at our properties and having conversations with our neighbours,” said Thoms. “A common theme is trying to build bridges in the neighbourhoods, and if you don’t already, reach over the fence to have a conversation with your neighbour. Hopefully, this is a reason to do that.”
The evacuation planning meetings are scheduled as follows: June 22, Paradise Exhibition Park Clubhouse, 11 a.m.; June 27, Italian Community Hall, 7 p.m.; July 4, Powell River Recreation Complex, 7 p.m.; July 13, Savary Island Fire Hall, 11 a.m.; Aug. 13, Lasqueti Island Community Hall, 4 p.m.
Meetings have been held on Texada Island, at Lang Bay Hall and Tla’amin Salish Centre.
For more details, go to qathet.ca or call 604-485-2260.