Regional emergency personnel meet in Castlegar to gear up for flood/wildfire season
Roughly 65 emergency-preparedness experts from across the region met in Castlegar last Thursday for a biannual meeting hosted by Emergency Management BC.
“It was good information, and very worthwhile,” said Castlegar Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio, adding there were many organizations represented, including utility companies like Fortis and Telus, Environment Canada, regional districts, municipalities, KBRFR … the list goes on.
“It was very well-attended – I believe they were expecting around 50 people. Because it was at the Complex, we were fortunate enough to be able to quickly expand the meeting area.”
Lattanzio said the meeting was kicked off by a brief welcoming address from Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff.
Jordan Turner, provincial communications manager, provided background information on the rationale behind these meetings:
Regional Seasonal Preparedness Meetings:
· The purpose of the Regional Seasonal Preparedness meetings hosted by Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is to provide a forum for local authorities and responding agencies to build relationships in advance of active seasons.
· The meetings also provide an opportunity to share information regarding the upcoming season – as weather forecast, snow survey and water-supply updates are provided during the spring meetings.
General Emergency Season Preparedness:
· In addition to responding to flooding to protect public safety, EMBC works with local governments to understand and prepare for flood-risk throughout the province.
· The Province funds the National Disaster Mitigation Program and the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to help local governments prepare and respond to flooding.
· These programs help communities develop flood-risk assessments, maps and mitigation plans in addition to constructing flood protection infrastructure.
· In addition, EMBC regularly reviews hazard plans following events and exercises to look for ways to improve. Following the freshet event from last year, EMBC is working with stakeholders to review and is currently updating the BC Flood Plan to ensure it accurately reflects needed provincial-level actions.
· In March, government activated the Provincial Flood Readiness Group in accordance with the BC Flood Response Plan. The intent of this group is to work cross-ministry to identify the areas at greatest risk of flooding, the possible threats to public safety and critical infrastructure, the protective measures that could be undertaken and to provide support and advice for regional plan development.
In December, 2017, government launched an independent review and series of public engagements in order to examine all aspects of the Province’s response to the wildfires and floods of 2017. The goal is to learn from the experiences of 2017 and improve provincial response.
· The BC Wildfire Service is fully committed to protecting B.C.’s communities, infrastructure and natural resources from wildfire threats.
· More than 1,600 firefighters and support staff will be available for the 2018 wildfire season. The B.C. government can also call on over 2,500 private contractor firefighting resources and a multitude of contingency resources (including those in other provinces).
· At full operational readiness, the BC Wildfire Service has access to 32 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, about 80 ground-attack vehicles and additional short-term contractors. Additional national and international resources are available as needed, through cross-border mutual aid agreements.
· The BC Wildfire Service also puts a strong emphasis on ongoing community engagement, wildfire prevention, enforcement and public education.