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EPC Departure a Blow to Village

Volunteers also "desperately" needed: ESS Director

Who can help in an emergency?

As first reported here in The Watershed, Emergency Program Coordinator (EPC) Phil Folkersen abruptly left his position last month, reportedly texting his resignation to village staffers.

Folkersen had been tasked with updating the village's evacuation plan, but the job was never completed.

At a meeting held by Emergency Services back in March, Folkersen said that the Village's emergency and evacuation plans had recently become subject to a risk assessment mandated by the province, but that the tools for completing that assessment were not yet released.

According to the province's Emergency Management webpage, these assessment tools include a hazard, risk and vulnerablity analysis (HVRA) component, as well as a critical infrastructure assessment (CI), both of which were updated as of April 30 of this year. However, both these tools are accessible only to qualified individuals within a municipality, and so without a EPC coordinator, the Village cannot move forward.

Emergency Support Services Director Mary Brown says she is "very worried" about this gap in the municipality's essential emergency infrastructure. "In addition to the currently vacant EPC position, we are desperately short of volunteers."

Brown notes that in the case of an emergency, ESS performs several essential roles. "If there's an earthquake or similar event, ESS can register people as safe, refer them to other agencies and distribute funds as needed."

She says that group lodging and transportation are generally handled by other agencies such as the Red Cross. "However, in a situation where the highway went down and we were flooded with hundreds of stranded travellers, ESS can help organize home billets for people to stay, and ensure that those who volunteer their homes receive compensation."

Brown recently offered some food for thought for local residents in a state of emergency in a series of articles that ran in The Watershed for Emergency Preparedness Week. She says she welcomes local residents who are interested in stepping up, noting that some training is required.

People who want to volunteer to work with vulnerable populations require an RCMP criminal record check, she says. In addition, the Justice Institute of BC (JI) offers introductory ESS classes in how to set up a reception centre, registration and referrals and in how to register and assist evacuees. These JI classes can all be completed online.

Until the village is able to fill the EPC position left by Folkersen's departure, former councillor and Fire Chief Fred Bain has "graciously" agreed to step into the position on an interim basis, according to Chief Administrative Officer Ross Blackwell.

When asked how long it will take to fill the position, Blackwell said that it's difficult to say, "given the large volume of other pressing issues," including filling the vacant position of Deputy Corporate Officer.

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