Saturna Island Emergency Preparedness Teams - Wood - May 27, 2011

Saturna Island Emergency Preparedness Teams - Wood - May 27, 2011

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by Dawn Wood, Coordinator

Besides the volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders of SIR (Saturna Island Rescue), there are many other residents trained to help out under certain emergency circumstances. This first week of May is a time to acknowledge what they do and who they are.

There are four teams of these volunteers who work cooperatively to provide assistance in times of disaster or larger scale emergencies. There is the Emergency Social Services (ESS) team that operates out of the Recreation Centre; there is the Community Coordination Centre (CCC) team which operates as part of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC); there is the Communications team (Comms) and there is the Coordination of Neighbourhood Contacts. These latter three will function in either ESB1 or ESB2 (Emergency Services Building) depending on the location and nature of the incident. Saturna also has two reps on the Southern Gulf Islands Emergency Commission, and we are supported by area coordinators.

The types of incidents in which Saturna volunteers will be called upon to assist are, for example, wildfires, earthquakes, propane or oil spills and severe winter storms with extended power outages and/or blocked roads. The incident may only require the supply of food or shelter (ESS) or it may require the assistance of administrative support (CCC). Sometimes, Dwight Carson as our Comms officer may initiate island wide contact through the Kenwood radio system or be in touch with Ham radio operators or people with VHS radios in their boats if all other systems fail. Otherwise, he or his substitute will be at an ESB and their role is to relay relevant information to the CCC, the ESS operation and the Medical Clinic. David Rees-Thomas assists Dwight with his many Comms skills.

As Neighbourhood Coordinator/Recruiter, Jenna Foster may contact a key person in one or several areas of the island to alert people to the incident or if evacuation might be necessary.

The neighbourhoods mostly define themselves quite naturally: Winter Cove, Old Point Farm, the Valley, Group of 30 and sections of Tumbo Channel Road for example. Since so many Saturna property owners are part-time residents, each key person is responsible for contacting about 20 properties in their neighbourhood; thus part of this responsibility is to have a sense of who might be on island – are they only summer or part-time people? - Or might they just be off island for the day? If you don’t know who your neighbourhood contact person is, it’s a good idea to find out.

Our most time consuming task is to try and keep accurate lists of residents and property owners, to know whether or not they have a landline phone and whether or not there are buildings on their property (particularly important in case of a fire and pending evacuation.) Evacuations from homes are usually conducted by the RCMP or the Fire Dept, but this local awareness can be of crucial assistance. The Saturna CCC has identified possible marine evacuation points around the island. Do you know the one or two closest to your place of work or home?

The CCC team takes turns carrying a pager and responding via the Crest radio system 24/7/52 and we have weekly test check-ins. Regular pager carriers are Brian Haley, Patti Fraba, Ron Hall, John McMillan, Teresa Higgins, Dwight, myself, and when here Dave Paton and Nevar Makofka. During an incident of significant impact, this team fills the role of supplying administrative support locally – supplying reports to the CRD and area coordinators, tracking events, helping order or arrange supplies of goods or equipment, keeping records both written and pictorial while also functioning as a liaison, particularly with the ESS team. We’ve taken courses to train us, and twice per year have practice sessions such as tabletop or simulation exercises.

The largest team of volunteers is the ESS team, coordinated by Bev Lowsley and assisted by Ingrid Gaines, Nancy Gerber as well as program originator, Barbra Grasswick. When people who need help or need to be relocated go to the Recreation Centre, they will be registered, checked for injuries at a triage area, given treatment, food and/or lodging as required, assisted with pet or child care, etc. Other ESS volunteers will be directing parking outside, taking care of security, or offering referral assistance. Many will be in the kitchen preparing food as firefighters and ambulance responders along with others directly involved in incident control, including reinforcements from off island, will need to be fed. There are approximately forty names on this team list; however, as with the CCC, for a lengthy incident volunteers will function in shifts – probably 12 hours on and 12 off. And always, one needs to take care of one’s own home situation first.

These teams of volunteers spend many hours planning, training and preparing for events we all hope will never happen. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have shown us just how much devastation, turmoil and chaos can be triggered by natural disasters. As I acknowledge and honour the commitment of volunteer time and energy contributed, I know most of us pray we’ll never have to put most of what we’ve learned into practice. We appreciate the many resources and skills in our midst. However, we also know that the Saturna community will work cooperatively together, and for this we are all grateful.