Celena Iachetta

Celena Iachetta

Greater Trail emergency committee adapting to changes

Columbia River expected to rise another 1.2 metres over the weekend

With forecasts for the already high Columbia River to be rising by another 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) over the weekend the local Emergency Services Committee is keeping a watchful eye but not overly concerned.

The committee held its regular meeting Thursday morning in the Emergency Operations Centre in the Greater Trail Community Centre where it continues the ongoing process of reviewing emergency plans and discussing possible improvements.

“The river is forecast to rise to around 8.5 metres (27.5 feet) as measured at the Birchbank monitoring station,” said Larry Abenante, Trail’s city works manager and Emergency Program co-coordinator. “Last year’s high water level was around 11 metres (35.8 feet,) so we’re not at a point of worrying about things yet.”

The recent flooding in the East Kootenay and current situation in Calgary is obviously on the radar but doesn’t affect local plans at this point.

“Obviously we’ve been watching the events in Calgary and, as a member of an Emergency Services Team myself, I’m amazed and proud of the job they’ve done in dealing with the flood there,” said Dan Derby, Emergency Services Coordinator and Assistant Regional Fire Chief. “But having real experience we tend to look at current events through the filter of what the media presents and can see what’s probably really happening in the situation.”

Derby explained that the committee is constantly engaged in reviewing and revising emergency plans for a wide range of contingencies and doesn’t necessarily use current events on the nightly news to determine plans for this area.

However, the team does look at significant past events and use the real experience from it to help in future planning.

“A real-life example is what happened last year with the spring freshet with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK,)” said Derby. “They had a number of situations occurring all at once and their staff was working to their limit. We’ve taken that experience and together have come up with a pilot project on how the RDKB, RDCK, and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), might be able to work together and share staff in the event of a similar situation in the future.”

While stressing the obvious importance of having well thought out plans in advance of as many situations as they possibly can, Abenante explained that it is impossible to plan for every eventuality.

“You can have the best laid plans but you have to react according to the actual situation,” he said. “And plans can become outdated pretty quickly, you have to be continually reviewing and revising.”

All in all, the committee has a cautious confidence in its ability to deal with emergency situations in this area.

With a variety of contingency plans covering a range of potential emergency situations that could possibly arise, given the particular threats and variables identified as risks locally, the team feels as well prepared as possible.

“With the existing plans we have on the books we could probably alter them enough to deal with any other risks,” said Derby. “We’ve had the plan for 10 years and have been constantly building on it. We think it would stand up to any regional plan in the province.”

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