A new, consolidated emergency management plan vision is sweeping the regional district—everywhere, that is, except in Rossland.
The Golden City remains an island amidst a groundswell of support for the new over-arching plan to be delivered to every community and area bounded by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
All RDKB municipal councils and regional district directors have signed onto the new agreement to aid local jurisdictions in determining “appropriate prevention response recovery” in the case of an emergency or disaster.
Rossland city council opted out of the regional service in 2007, not because the city is immune to disaster, but because of finances, said the city’s mayor, Greg Granstrom.
“We felt that perhaps we could achieve the same goals by having it in-house rather than through the regional district,” he said. “Cost was a consideration (in opting out) for sure. Hopefully we don’t need it but we have some expertise here.”
Although the costs of the service to the city weren’t clear seven years later, it was enough for the council of the day to warrant its cancellation, said Granstrom.
The coordinator for emergency management services in Rossland (and also the city’s deputy chief administrative officer), Tracey Butler, said the regional service has never been called upon in the 17 years she has been employed by the city.
The only emergency incidents the city has had to contend with in that time have been chemical spills from Teck Trail Operations trucks, she said, and Teck has hazmat people managing those situations when they happen in Rossland.
“And I don’t think we will get a tornado … and any flooding goes down to Trail,” she said. “And, of course, we would be there to help them if it did.”
All City of Rossland staff is trained through the Justice Institute in emergency management, Butler explained, and are all well equipped and informed, with emergency management equipment stored in City Hall.
“If something happens it is a pretty quick change over to be up and operating as an emergency management centre,” she said. “Of course, our biggest fear would be wildfires, and that would be why we have spent a lot of time doing the wildfire interface program.”
Through Fireline Services the city has almost completed fuel management—removing combustible fuels from the forest—around the entire perimeter of the city.
The RDKB coordinator of emergency management services, Dan Derby, said there are exclusive benefits from membership in the new emergency management plan. Even so, Rossland isn’t entirely on its own, he said.
“We would work with city staff in response (to an emergency),” he said. “We just can’t extend services when someone is not participating. We would have to get direction from the board of directors and the CAO before we could assist.”
The new 163-page plan contains a set of guidelines for how the regional district would report and respond to an actual emergency.
There are 11 key hazard plans (risks) which focus on critical infrastructure, dam failure, earthquakes, epidemic and pandemic of human and animal, explosions or emissions, wildfires, floods, hazardous material spills or leaks, severe weather events and utility failures.
Evacuation planning, recovery planning, response and recovery expenses—how an event is wrapped up financially and how costs and reimbursement of costs are accounted for—is also detailed in the plan.
The response plan is an evolving document as contact personnel changes, services improve and preparation is evaluated. Participants in the plan are continuously training and upgrading for any potential disaster.
The plan—50 per cent ($10,000) funded by the federal Joint Emergency Preparedness Program—itself flows like an emergency event would flow, said Derby.
“We don’t do this every day,” he said. “The staff that we put in the emergency operations centre may not see the document for months at a time … but the day of an event they need to be able to be comfortable working with it.”
In the past there were seven different plans on which the emergency management team would work from, depending on which community the incident occurred. The new document brings every community together under one plan.
The emergency management organization and procedures outlined within the plan assist local jurisdictions in determining the appropriate levels of assistance and the response appropriate for the community at the time of the event, said Derby.
Emergency Management BC had been looking for verification the regional district and municipalities were on the same page with the new plan, requiring an agreement to now be signed.
The move formalizes the unofficial agreement for the service that was previously in effect, said Lila Cresswell, Village of Fruitvale chief administrative officer.
“It still is exactly what we already do,” she said. “We have been doing this for a number of years so there is no issue with (continuing).”
There is no change or cost increase with the new plan. In fact, Derby said the agreement provides cost savings to communities because they aren’t responsible for maintaining a plan in the future.
“The biggest perk for the communities, in working from one regional plan, is we have also been able to develop one regional staff pool for the emergency operations centre,” said Derby.
There are two emergency operation centres in the RDKB, one in Trail and one in Grand Forks.