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If you own a business, maybe you should put your employees on call during storms so they can stay home if you need to close, or only call in employees that live in easy walking or bussing distance. If you run an office, call your employees and tell them to work from home, or just stay home until you say otherwise.
Schools should have opened to give kids with nowhere else to go an option for the day — providing they live in walking distance, and that the teachers live close enough to organize a few games or activities. But parents should know that it’s optional. If they can stay home with their kids (which would be easy if they didn’t have to go to work) then they wouldn’t have to drive their kids to school or to load them onto school buses that don’t have seatbelts.
If someone is from out of town, there should be a better way to share information with them — and special emergency rates at hotels to allow people to stay overnight. Squamish hotels were fully booked on Sunday night, mostly by people trying to get home to Vancouver and Seattle from Whistler. Those people should never have left Whistler.
The fact that Whistler can get a dozen of these storms every year doesn’t make it any less of a disaster. We need to call it what it is, and act accordingly by creating a response plan that kicks in when the conditions deteriorate or the forecast is bad. Someone should be empowered to look at the data and make the call, which would allow a disaster response plan to kick in.
Close the highway early, and at regular intervals to let the plows move back and forth. Check for chains. Turn people back. Encourage people to stay, or, if they live in the corridor, to stay home. Close non-essential businesses. For people who have to travel, keep the municipal buses running along the highway only and ignore the subdivisions until they’re safe to go into. Designate a place to go, like the conference centre, where visitors can stay warm, wait for the highway and get the latest information. Don’t sell people bus tickets, sell them tickets with numbers so they know where they are in line and don’t have to push and shove their way to the front in a mad panic. Designate someone in the municipality as a disaster response coordinator to assemble all the information coming in from highway crews, emergency services, Environment Canada, and the public to give regular updates over the radio and Internet for both visitors and residents.