Evacuation route planning for Area B expected to take one year

·2 min read

With a $25,000 grant from the provincial government, the Regional District of Nanaimo will begin planning evacuation routes on Gabriola Island and Area B.

Area B Director Vanessa Craig said emergency preparedness and evacuation route planning are priorities for her.

“I was very pleased when RDN staff applied for funding in 2020 to support planning for our area,” she told the Sounder. She said plans developed on other islands recently, such as Bowen and Quadra, will help address some of the challenges of evacuating residents from islands.

The plan takes an “all hazards approach,” Catherine Morrison, RDN manager of emergency services, said. Insights around expediting evacuations and evacuee registrations while completing an evacuation route plan for Nanoose (Area E) last year will be applied for Area B.

“These include actions such as the need to consider targeted evacuations or evacuation zones to reduce the amount of traffic at any given time [and] analyzing the road network and road capacity and looking at opportunities to utilize traffic control personnel,” Morrison said.

The planning process will consider factors like risk areas, population size and demographics, transportation resources, traffic management, evacuation route availability and capacity, communications, animal welfare, identification of vulnerable populations for voluntary evacuations, immediate emergency actions, response and evacuation times and time of year.

Like many islands and rural areas, Area B has a number of neighbourhoods with one way in and out. The plan will be based on current infrastructure, Craig said. Since roads and rights-of-way are Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure jurisdiction, “development of these accesses can be difficult,” she said, but it’s possible the final report may identify areas and neighbourhoods that need additional options.

“Even neighbourhoods that are well-connected by roads may find themselves isolated depending on the type of emergency,” Craig pointed out; “so it’s important to identify multiple evacuation routes … and methods for evacuation” such as marine and land options.

The plan for Area B is expected to be completed by February 2022.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder