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Preparing for the worst

Emergency Social Services taskforce urges preparedness, recruits for local ESS response team

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Whistler’s ESS Reception Centre will have to run 24 hours a day, and will require people to fill a wide range of positions, from management and administration to first aid and emotional support.

There are four main departments.

Operations include the day-to-day operation of the centre, from reception and registration to the provision of childcare, blankets, and transportation.

Planning assesses the situation, handling the documentation while anticipating the needs of clients. Logistics deals with the whole supply chain, managing food, water, clothing and other goods during the crisis. The Planning group also handles information and communication for the centre.

The Finance group tracks costs and time, procures supplies and handles compensation and claims for the centre. In the Interior last summer some of the evacuees were given food allowances.

"There are a lot of different functions in our plan, and we’re asking the community to come out and take a look at what we have and what we will be requiring. A lot of functions need to be fulfilled," said Fletcher.

After last summer there is a heightened sense of awareness of natural disasters in the province, she says, and an understanding that they could just as easily happen in Whistler – you could argue that they almost did.

"The momentum has been there because it has been on everyone’s mind since the fires and the flood," said Fletcher. "To not be prepared these days is courting a disaster."

Following the display at Nesters, the ESS will be holding an orientation seminar for people who would like to volunteer or would like more information before they commit to anything. This will take place on May 13 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in council chambers.

The training will take place in May and June, with as little as a one-day commitment for most volunteers.

In addition to appealing to the public, Fletcher is working with the RMOW and local businesses to encourage their staff to get involved.

The main focus of Emergency Preparedness Week is on individuals and families, emphasizing prevention and the need to be well-prepared and rehearsed for disaster situations.

Gord Leidel, one of Fletcher’s alternates as ESS Director, says he realized how important it can be to have an evacuation plan last summer when a house on the other side of the road from his home caught fire.

"We woke up to sirens and got up in time to see smoke and flames up in the air. I had visions of it spreading into the subdivision, and my wife was already packing the car with things that were important to her," said Leidel.