After a summer of heat waves, forest fires, and overall uncertainty, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is coordinating a new emergency preparedness plan. They will be developing a regional Evacuation Route Plan in partnership with communities within the East Kootenay region.
The RDEK has retained a consultant in charge of developing scenarios and detailed evacuation routes, which will compile into an official regional evacuation plan.
The project, initiated in Aug., is currently in the data-gathering stages, and is asking for East Kootenay residents in municipalities, rural areas, and First Nations to participate in an online survey. “The more widespread participation we have, the better the data will be, which will make for a stronger plan,” says Fiona Dercole, RDEK Protective Services Manager.
Being proactive will hopefully ease a lot of the stress that many British Columbians faced this past summer. The East Kootenays must be prepared in case it receives evacuees from other areas in B.C. again, due to the “widespread accommodation shortages in the West Kootenay, Central Kootenay and Okanagan,” says the RDEK in a press release.
The RDEK successfully obtained $171,720 in grant funding for the project from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). For the grant, they partnered with six municipalities and four First Nation bands, the aq’am, Akisqnuk, Tobacco Plains Indian Band, and the Shuswap Indian Band.
Additionally, the District of Invermere’s application for further funding was approved, resulting in an additional $21,920 for a grand total of $193,640.
Dercole says, “the results of the survey will help us better meet the needs of residents during evacuation. The survey includes questions about livestock, pets, mobility challenges and others. We also encourage everyone to have a family emergency plan and to register for the Evacuation Notification System so that we can quickly reach people during an emergency.”
Evacuation planning has been ongoing for several years, but this major funding opportunity provided by UBCM allows us to use a more comprehensive and coordinated approach, with all communities in the East Kootenay region.
The completion of the draft Regional Evacuation Route Plan is expected for early 2022. To participate in the survey, visit https://engage.rdek.bc.ca/evacuationplan. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 17.
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer