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Emergency Preparedness Week: May 7-13

Updated: May 26, 2023

Prepare to be Self-Sufficient for 72 Hours or Longer



In recognition of Emergency Preparedness Week, held from May 7-13 in British Columbia this year, The Watershed interviewed Mary Brown, the volunteer ESS Director for the Village of Lions Bay, to get the latest information on what all Lions Bay residents need to know in case of an emergency.


Watershed: Can you tell our readers a bit about Emergency Support Services in Lions Bay? What role does ESS play when emergencies arise in the village?


Mary Brown: Emergency Support Services (ESS) falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness (EMCR). This means in addition to addressing accidents and local emergencies, we also deal with climate-related emergencies – ice storms, wildfires and heat events. For example, we've recently acquired two air conditioning units, which now give us the ability to convert space in the village hall into a cooling facility, if there is a heat emergency.


Watershed: What other work does ESS do for Lions Bay?


MB: Additional to on-the-ground action, our role is to give monetary support to people who are displaced and without home insurance, particularly for the first 72 hours. If your house is on fire and you're standing outside in your bare feet, even if you do have insurance, ESS can help arrange to find a place for your to stay, and help cover the costs for families who volunteer to help billet displaced people.


Watershed: How does this work?


MB: Traditionally, ESS will provide monetary support over the first 72 hours, usually by e-deposit. This is to help people cover the cost of food and incidentals such as toothpaste and soap, and even clothing, if they have no access to their own resources. There was a fire in North Van before Christmas, and North Shore Emergency Management discovered that the electronic registration system they have in place doesn't work very well in the field, so instead they converted their emergency funds into Visa cards they could hand out as needed. We've approached Council to put a similar system in place here. The goal is to ensure the emergency funds are more readily available for people in desperate situations.


Watershed: Are there any other projects in which ESS is currently involved?


MB: Phil Folkerson, the Emergency Program Co-ordinator, is currently working on an Evacuation Plan for the Village. We also have $7,000 in grant money that we need to spend before the end of June. We're hoping to use the money to put shelving into two free-standing storage units we are setting up in the village.


Watershed: What is the main focus of Emergency Preparedness Week? What should residents do to be prepared?


MB: The principal goal is to bring emergency preparedness to the forefront of people's thinking. Residents should know that in the case of an earthquake or other catastrophic emergency, the highway and rail lines may go down. People need to be able to shelter in place for at least 72 hours, wherever they find themselves – at home, in their office or even in their car.


Watershed: What essentials should people have on hand in their grab and go bags?


MB: You should have a grab and go bag in the car, in your house, and in your office. And while you might be at work or in the car when an earthquake strikes, people should remember that we all spend a third of our lives in bed. An easy thing to do for every family member is to get a giant zip lock bag and load it up with a pair of old shoes, a small flashlight, and extra glasses. Slip it under your bed. That way, if a tree comes through house, you can at least make your way outside without cutting your feet on broken glass, or splintered wood and metal. Practice escape drills with your kids. Make it a fun thing you do once in a while – how to get out of the house in the dark. Practice a drill so everyone knows a safe place to gather.


Watershed: What about water? Should we all have a water barrel outside?


MB: Water barrels are great for the garden, but don't provide potable drinking water. The amount of water needed for emergency supplies is two litres of water per person, per day. It's more than most people realize. And unfortunately, this comes down to having water bottles on hand. At least the water lasts for two years, so at the end of that time you can water your garden with it, and recycle the bottles before replacing them. Camping stores like MEC often have water-treatment straws and other gadgets that make good sense to keep in the car, where you can't store large quantities of water.


Watershed: Anything else residents should do to be better prepared?


MB: It's a good idea to make an out-of-province contact list to keep in your wallet. Names and numbers for someone your family can contact who lives outside of the immediate disaster zone.


Watershed: I know that you volunteer, Mary, and Phil Folkerson as the Emergency Program Coordinator is in a contracted position. So is ESS in Lions Bay looking for volunteers? What kind of commitment is required to help out? How often do you meet?


MB: We are looking for volunteers. Right now, we just have a couple of volunteer Fire Rescue members along with myself and Phil. Education is a big part of the commitment, as volunteers need to take courses offered through the Justice Institute of BC. You'll also need a criminal record check, plus a confirmation that you are able to work with vulnerable populations, and attend monthly meetings. You have to remember that in an emergency, ESS workers are running toward the problem, which is the opposite direction to the way the public is running, so training is very important.

Watershed: Where can people go to find more information?


MB: The best place to look is Prepared BC, the Emergency Preparedness education site.


Watershed: Any last words of advice to people during Emergency Preparedness Week?


MB: The biggest take-home message for residents is that in the case of emergency, you need to prepare to be self-suffiencient for 72 hours at least, if not double that. Check out the recommendations at the Emergency Preparedness Week site. Thinking ahead doesn't have to be complicated, and it can save lives.


Watershed: Thanks so much for joining us today, Mary. Residents interested in volunteering for ESS can reach Mary at ESS@lionsbay.ca.




Do you have questions or thoughts regarding Lions Bay ESS or Emergency Preparedness Week? Share your comments below, or send them to editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca




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