Evacuation plan and volunteer training, top priorities in planning for island-wide emergency

Jennifer McGowan, Bowen Island’s Emergency Services Program co-ordinator, says that coming up with a solid evacuation plan for Bowen Island has been on her mind since her job started in January. She says that time spent working at an reception centre for people forced to evacuate their homes because of wildfires re-enforced what’s needed to make such a plan effective.

“An influx of volunteers offered their time to help when communities throughout BC got evacuation orders this summer,” says McGowan. “Most of them were not trained, so Emergency Social Services BC put out a call for experienced people to help. I responded, and my job consisted mostly of supervising and supporting volunteers.”

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McGowan spent roughly ten days working at the Sandman Reception Centre in Kamloops, starting on July 15, the day after people in Williams Lake, BC, received an evacuation order.

“It was incredibly heartwarming to see so many people dedicate their time to helping,” says McGowan. “There was one 80 year-old woman who offered to be a runner and spent 12 hours bringing things up and down a flight of stairs. There was another woman who came to Kamloops to visit her daughter but spent the entire trip helping.”

McGowan says that here on Bowen, a number of community members have volunteered to help set-up the NERP (Neighbourhood Emergency Response People) system to allow  for a highly localized response to emergencies on the island. Others have stepped in to be a part of Bowen’s Emergency Social Services Team, headed up by Carolyn McDonald.

“I really want to make sure all these volunteers can be trained to carry out their jobs before we face an emergency,” says McGowan.

She adds that the Municipality is rolling out a new emergency notification system. If people sign up, they will be notified by their preferred method in case of a neighbourhood or island-wide emergency. To register, go to: www.bimbc.ca/eas

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