Local networking is really important in an emergency: CVRD’s Sybille Sanderson tells Lake Cowichan town council. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

VIDEO: Neighbourliness and safety go hand in hand: Sanderson

As storm season approaches, council talks emergency preparedness

The CVRD’s emergency preparedness guru, Sybille Sanderson, urged Lake Cowichan town councillors Oct. 8 to update their own education and plans so they’ll be ready to help others.

Last December’s huge windstorm and multi-day power outage opened many eyes about disaster readiness in the Valley, particularly the Cowichan Lake area, as both access roads were closed.

“We might have another event where we are dealing with lengthy power outages and last year was an excellent learning curve for people in terms of realizing: oh, maybe I’m not as ready as I should be.

“When we had that windstorm and heavy power outage it just really came home to everybody that emergency management is only as successful with everybody doing their part.

“To expect, for example, that here in Lake Cowichan council and staff are going to run around taking care of everyone is just not realistic. Part of that is making sure the message we’re giving the public and the expectations we are setting are realistic.”

Last year’s windstorm was more of an inconvenience, she said, but it did show the importance of neighbours checking in on neighbours.

“In some neighbourhoods people did that but in other neighbourhoods people just sat behind their closed doors, which is unfortunate because at the end of the day the simple thing that we try to promote is getting everybody to check on the neighbour across and on either side. If everyone did that, everyone would get checked on. That’s a foundation and the more of that we can get done the less work there is for staff, the less emergencies arise. It’s an important piece.”

She also encouraged everyone to take a look at the emergency preparedness challenge in the booklet.

“It’s really important for us to take the lead on that, for us to be prepared because we can then reach out and maybe look to someone who doesn’t have that in place.”

Implementing emergency management means more than following the town’s plan.

“Here in the [CVRD] region we’ve trained all the staff at the rec centres to help out if there’s an evacuation type of event. Last year we had planned to open up the Cowichan Lake Recreation Centre as a warming centre but found out unfortunately that the generator wasn’t working. Those things happen! But the school stepped up, and they coordinated with us to do that.

“One of the things that came out was that that really wasn’t enough. That’s when we had to clarify: when is it local governments that have to provide the services and when is it the community?

“There was a group formed here [in Lake Cowichan] and another group formed in Youbou and a group in Chemainus. The whole goal was to promote personal preparedness and also that networking, identifying where there might be some needs and then dealing with them. People helping people rather than expecting us as local governments to magically wave our magic wands and make something happen.

“It’s now time to ramp it up a level and ensure that those who need to know what to do in an emergency actually can do their jobs.

“That’s just something I’d like to encourage for the town here: get a little more comfort level among the staff.”

According to Sanderson, town council has to recognize that they have an official role to play in an emergency, too.

“If we have to evacuate people we have to have a declaration of a state of local emergency. That has to be signed by the mayor or his or her designate. It’s really important for you to be involved in those processes so you’re comfortable with what’s going on. Declarations have to be signed by the mayor, any evacuation orders have to be signed by the mayor.”

McGonigle said a speaker from Williams Lake, talking at the recently concluded UBCM, had said one of the most difficult decisions he’s had to make in his political career was to have to sign an evacuation notice for people to leave their homes.

“He said afterwards he walked out and stood in the street and there was no one…To sit there and take it all in was very difficult.”

Later, the councillor said that during last winter’s storm, people were moving generators from block to block, trying to determine the needs of the community; it showed that problems could last more than just a day or two.

“I think it’s important to look beyond 72 hours,” he said. “You could be on your own for up to seven days. Let’s focus on that.”



lexi.bainas@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

After more than 2 weeks, still no sign of Ethan Sampson of Duncan

Still no sign of 28-year-old Cowichan Tribes man

Chemainus woman sets a new standard for 106-year-olds

Active lifestyle includes a trip to Scotland in the works for May

Local state of emergency ends in Cowichan Valley

No further threats of flooding in the Valley

Pressure builds for buses from Cowichan to ferry terminals

North Cowichan’s council now requesting bus connections be considered

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

Most Read