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Emergency Services Call for Volunteers

Updated: Mar 18

Folkersen says risk assessment still needed for evacuation plan

Village residents gathered online and in person in Council Chambers on Tuesday evening to hear how local emergency groups are addressing emergency preparadness issues.

Emergency Program Coordinator (EPC) Phil Folkersen, who chaired the meeting, said that in a state of emergency, the Village of Lions Bay will face significant challenges. These include limited support staff and emergency personnel, a single route in or out of the Village, the possibility of beach-side evacuations by water, and the fact that there is limited available hotel space for evacuees both in Squamish and on the North Shore.

While Folkersen broadly addressed the elements of a potential evacuation plan, as seen in the slide below, he offered no specifics for Lions Bay residents beyond the existing zone map. He said the risk assessment element of the process is mandated by the province, but the tools for completing this assessment have not yet been released. Folkersen said the risk assessment has to take place in order to complete an evacuation plan.

credit: EPC Phil Folkersen presentation, March 12, 2024.

The meeting also heard from guest speaker Edward Watchman, the coordinator of the Bowen Island Neighbourhood Emergency Response Program (NERP), who outlined how Bowen Island residents address emergency preparations.

Watchman gave a history of NERP, which had its beginnings in a storm in 1992 that left some Bowen residents without power for more than two weeks. He reiterated a story that circulated at the time of an elderly woman who'd had to burn her books in a woodstove to stay warm, inspiring, he said, Bowen Islanders to do a better job of looking after each other.

Since that time, Watchman says that NERP has grown to more than 90 volunteers, loosely organized in various neighbourhoods around the island. Each of the 10 local zones is led by a coordinator.

He noted that, like Bowen, Lions Bay has essentially only one way in and out, so preparations need to account for a longer time without help. These include having three weeks' worth of food, medication and fuel stored, plus a travel bag to cover each person for three days.

Watchman stressed the importance of solid and regular communication between emergency services and the local fire and police departments. He said it is vital to know your neighbours, both for ensuring everyone is safe and having a sense of who has the appropriate tools and abilities to help in an emergency.

NERP obtained grants to build five emergency kiosks scattered around the island to aid in communications, and Watchman also recommended the Alertable app, which is already in use in Lions Bay.

Folkersen said he'd like to see a program similar to NERP in Lions Bay. He added it would take someone to step up to run the program and coordinate with Bowen Island, and further volunteers would be needed as neighbourhood captains.

Mary Brown, Director of Emergency Support Services (ESS) in the Village, said that ESS has been allocated funds by the province to cover food, lodging and sundries for 72 hours after an emergency. These are in the form of prepaid Visa cards, and are distributed based on need. She noted that individuals who are self-sufficient (including those whose home is insured) are not eligible for this support.

Brown described the three levels of activation identified by the province: a single family house fire, a multi-house or structure fire, and a major disaster. In this latter case, the provincial government takes over, as the local ESS does not have the capacity to address large scale emergencies.

In the case of an emergency, ESS can register people as safe, refer them to other agencies and distribute funds as needed. It does not oversee group lodging or transport people, or offer first aid, emotional or psycho-social support, services that are provided by the Red Cross and other agencies. Click HERE to learn more about the services offered by ESS in an emergency.

Brown said that ESS is urgently looking for volunteers, but noted that in order to take part, emergency training is required. Currently, aside from Brown herself, there is only one other trained volunteer in the village. Interested volunteers can check out available training courses HERE.

Folkersen also provided his email ( for anyone who has questions or would like to step forward to volunteer. He noted that anyone taking on a public-facing role must be prepared to have a criminal record check. He encouraged the more than 50% of Village residents who have not yet signed up for the Alertable app to do so.

A few questions arose during the presentations. Long-time resident Tamara Leger called in to ask if Works staff would act as drivers during an emergency, or whether any agreement has been established with Translink to help evacuate residents should the need arise. She also questioned whether redundancies had been built into the evacuation plan to allow for resiliency during an emergency, and asked if any specific plans had been made by the Village to deal with the predicted drought this summer.

Folkersen said he would note her concerns, and that these and other questions could help further direct the process. He reiterated invited residents with questions to email him directly at

(Edited March 18 to add a link to the information handouts made available at the meeting.)

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