Establishing Emergency Social Services


Eminent threat: This shot from 2003 shows the smoke billowing over Sun Peaks' horizon. - File Photo
Emergency Social Services will help displaced residents should an emergency, such as the wildfires in 2003, force people from their homes. – File Photo

Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) is developing two new community safety programs, Emergency Social Services (ESS) and emergency preparedness, over the summer.

Volunteer lieutenant Ash Bruce has been appointed as co-ordinator for both programs and will be setting up the framework throughout the next few months.

The ESS program is a common program for communities and comes into effect when residents are displaced from their homes due to an emergency. A reception centre is set up where displaced people can check in and receive help for the first 72 hours following the emergency, which Bruce said is the critical period.

“If anybody does become displaced it’s just a matter of finding out where that reception centre is and there will be contact information set up, there’s a whole broadcast that will go out,” Bruce said. “The key thing is tracking everybody in an emergency because you want to make sure you don’t lose anybody.”

The ESS program partners municipalities with the provincial government and assists displaced people depending on the nature of the emergency with short-term food, lodging and clothes.

Bruce said the focus this summer will be on recruiting volunteers, setting up a communication network using Sun Peaks’ various broadcast channels and partnering with local businesses to help should the need arise.

“It’s becoming more and more important especially in the smaller communities. The big cities tend to have people in place to do this, but here it’s a volunteer group and volunteer position that’s being built to handle this,” Bruce said.

He is also working to create an information package to help people prepare in case of an emergency. Bruce said the emergency preparedness resources will be available through the SPFR and Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality websites.

“If something does happen in the house and you do have to leave in an emergency, do you have an escape plan? Have you set up an area where the kids can go meet up with everybody? Do you have a backpack that’s got things like vital medication, clothing and a couple days’ worth of water?” Bruce said.

Bruce said there were examples this past winter where they had to evacuate residents on Douglas Court and Burfield Drive for short periods of time due to water and gas main breaks, which highlighted the importance of a formalized program.

“We’re reaching an age as a resort or size as a community that having these things in place is becoming more important,” Bruce said. “We get pretty constant reminders that we have to deal with these two things when it comes to small-scale evacuations or people that are displaced.”