Trained emergency support volunteers needed in CSRD

Submitted

Statistically, natural disasters like wildfires and floods are happening more frequently and are more severe.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is no exception, as evidenced by flooding, landslides, and wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

As such, the CSRD, the Town of Golden, and the City of Revelstoke are looking to expand its base of emergency support services (ESS) volunteers who can be called upon to assist when needed.

Programs in the region need help to keep these important services running and help their communities be prepared for and respond to emergency situations.

Professional training is available to give CSRD emergency support service volunteers the ability to help their family, friends, and neighbours during a time of crisis. Things like a place to meet, the chance to get a warm meal or a safe place to stay, and emotional support are some critical services trained volunteers can assist with.

While untrained citizens often want to step up in times of crisis, it is critical for communities to have volunteers who are educated and prepared before a disaster happens. That way, these volunteers are ready to deliver the best response to local people in their area.

“I was truly astounded last year by the number of volunteers who put in countless hours assisting evacuees during the 2017 wildfire events,” says Cathy Semchuk, Shuswap emergency program facilitator. “What if these volunteers did not step up to help? Who would be there to comfort and help the thousands of individuals evacuated from their homes? As disaster become more frequent and severe, trained volunteers become more critical to the resiliency of communities.”

The CSRD needs help to prepare for emergencies. As a trained ESS program responder, participants will raise awareness about the program, work as a team with other volunteers, help reach out to the public following a disaster and assist in running emergency reception centres or places for people to take refuge in times of crisis.

“I find it so rewarding to have the opportunity to help alleviate some of the stresses that are involved with evacuation and disasters,” says Regina Forry, a trained ESS volunteer in the region. “To be able to see, at times, the physical relief on a mom or dad’s face when they know they can tuck their kids in that night, maybe in a strange bed, but somewhere safe and warm. It makes me feel blessed I can help them.”

To learn more about the program, an emergency volunteer information session has been scheduled on Wednesday, November 28 at 6 p.m. at the Golden Civic Centre downstairs conference room.

Those interested in attending the information meeting must call 250-833-5927 to reserve a seat. For further information please contact Tracy Hughes, CSRD communications coordinator at 250-833-5963 or toll free at 1-888-248-2773, or e-mail thughes@csrd.bc.ca.

Also, CSRD fire departments throughout the region are looking for new recruits to join the fire departments and help contribute to the safety and security of their community and its residents. Certain participation levels are necessary to keep fire halls running safely and smoothly, which is especially key in rural areas like Nicholson, Falkland, the North and South Shuswap, Malakwa, Swansea Point, Ranchero, and Silver Creek.

Shuswap firefighter Jeremy Denny says his commitment to the fire hall can mean some late-night calls or needing to work with his employer on plans for taking time away during an emergency situation, he says most obstacles to being a firefighter can be worked out.

“It is something you need to discuss as a family and understand the obligations. I’ve taken about every firefighter training course the CSRD has offered and all of them have the same philosophy: family first, then work, then the department… It’s very much appreciated because the priorities are in the right order.”

Denny also says many employers are more accommodating of this type of service than potential recruits may believe.

CSRD firefighters generally train once per week at their respective fire halls and have some additional training requirements to fulfill as new recruits. Then there are many other opportunities for training to enhance a firefighter’s knowledge and abilities.

For more information on becoming a paid on-call firefighter at one of the 13 CSRD fire departments around the region, e-mail fire@csrd.bc.ca or Sean Coubrough, CSRD fire services coordinator at 250-833-5955.

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