Tag Archives: emergency

Preparedness Week 2019

Preparedness Week saw things happening in Grand Forks from April 11 to 13th

Beginning on April 11 with a presentation on Your Finances After The Flood from Grand Forks Credit Union and Community Futures hosted by Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy at Selkirk College.

On April 12 and 13th 2 blocks of Market Ave. in Grand Forks were closed to traffic so a number of demonstrations and information booths could be set up for preparedness week

One of the things they wanted to point out to people was how to properly do sand bagging. Flooding in your home or store is bad enough but imagine the frustration after a lot of hard work placing sandbags only to have that water infiltrate past them. There are ways to make that less likely to happen and make the barriers better. Paul Edmonds from Red Dragon Consulting takes us through it.

Remember what it was like trying to stay abreast of the changing threats over the last few years? Do you listen to the radio? Which website has the most up-to-date information? Are there public postings for those who aren’t on the web? Where? How do you know?
Well the Regional District has take a step forward in keeping you informed about threats as they happen. They’ve brought out an App (Voyent Alert) for phones and tablets that will get Push notifications about threats as they unfold. Push means you don’t have to make the App visit the website – it gets a notification all by itself. So if there’s a wildfire coming to where you are right now. or a flood, the App will let you know. It runs on both Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android systems.
Listen to RDKB’s Interim Emergency Program Manager Mark Stephens explain more.

What if you’ve gone out into the wilderness hiking, biking, snowmobiling, or hunting and something happens and you need help. What are you going to do?
Did you bring a GPS? Good – You know where you are.
But how do you get that information to Help?
Do you have a Satellite phone? No? How about a Two-Way radio? One that works in the mountains . . .
Or as you lie there with your broken leg / burst appendix / cuts and scrapes will you be wondering how long your body will be there before its found?
It doesn’t have to be that way or have that bad an outlook if you have an In-Reach device . . . with one of those rescuers can know exactly where you are and you can let them know what is wrong so they bring the right supplies to help you. Listen to Scott Lamont from Grand Forks Search and Rescue explain.

Politicians from various levels of government (not the feds) were present. Local city councillors were serving up pancake breakfast with the Elks on Saturday. Other were there to talk about what has happened, is happening and will take place in the future. Mayor Taylor, RDKB Chair Roly Russell and Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness Jennifer Rice spoke.

Province Declares State of Emergency

Aug 14 – A province wide State Of Emergency has been declared due to the WildFire situation.

As reported in  Global News

As of Aug. 14, there were 566 wildfires burning in B.C., with 29 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,050 people (1,521 properties), in addition to 48 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 18,720 people (9,359 properties).

This state of emergency is for 14 days – it can be extended it needed.

 

The Homeless Could Make Many More Homeless

Regulations restrict the ability those who are supposed to protect the community from doing so.

In the July 17, 2017 City Council Committee Of The Whole meeting a disturbing state of affairs came to light which affects all of us who live and / or own property in Grand Forks.

A short while ago the province instituted a province wide state of emergency due to the heightened wildfire threat. Large areas of BC are burning and over 30,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and towns. Many don’t know if they will have homes to go back to.

Here in Grand Forks we’ve been spared so far but the conditions are prime for a fire to take off and endanger the town. Hence bans on open fires and camp fires.

Even with this risk, and ban, there are a few individuals who are flaunting these rules with relative impunity. These are a small number of the homeless people who have no warm place to spend the night. And even though it’s scorching hot during the day it does get quite cool at night . . . so they start campfires when it gets cold.

One of these people has a small camp on the side of Observation Mountain fairly close to residential properties at the north end of 2nd and 3rd streets. People who live in houses in the area are quite upset because not only does this person repeatedly have camp fires past sundown but apparently nobody has the power to make him stop doing this.

The Fire department can come and put out the fires. They have and continue to do so. They could ticket him but seeing as he has no income or address that would be a futile exercise.

The RCMP will not likely arrest him because it’s a mental health issue – not a crime (yet). In cases involving mental health they do not incarcerate individuals here in BC. If they do apprehend him he won’t go to jail; he’ll be taken to a health facility where he won’t likely be incarcerated. (for more info on how the RCMP deal with homeless and mental health related offenders see the  video in this article)

Provincial regulations regarding flaunting the campfire ban have a penalty that results in a fine, not arrest and incarceration. From the province’s web page on Fire Bans and Restrictions “Serious fines and penalties can result for not adhering to these rules while in the jurisdiction of the BC Wildfire Service.” That presumes that the individuals can pay fines and act rationally and with care. And aren’t likely to flagrantly flaunt the rules.

If his campfire were to get out of control and start the forest on fire, and the fire department was unable to get to it in time, the fire would race up Observation Mountain. On the top of it are communications facilities, antennae and cell phone towers – this would leave us with next to no wireless communications. On the other side is the residential subdivision of Copper Ridge which consists of fairly expensive homes nestled right in the interface. The forest on the town facing side comes right down to residential areas that are right downtown. This hasn’t happened yet because the fire department has been responsive to the threat and the campfire hasn’t gotten out of control. I doubt that the person in question has a fire extinguisher handy. Or can afford one.

So we have a situation where the town could lose significant amounts of property and possibly lives. Potentially millions of dollars in damage. And apparently no one can do anything about it due to regulatory proscription.

Conversations on social media show that people’s frustrations and fears are tending towards anger and the threat of vigilante actions is implied. The irony of this would be that those engaging in this behavior could find themselves incarcerated and unable to do anything while their property burns.

We do have an extreme weather facility to provide shelter for homeless people when the weather becomes too dangerous to sleep outside but those are intended for cold weather in the winter time, not summer. And the opinion of those who have had to deal with these individuals (there are more than just the one on the mountain) is that a number of them wouldn’t take advantage of the service if it was open.

These are people who have mental health problems. Some have complex issues which are exacerbated with drug abuse. Which means they aren’t going to make rational decisions. And will not react normally or predictably to suggestions, instructions or demands that they change their behavior.

If they are too stressed out, or feel too pressured to change how they behave, they might respond negatively. The comments I’ve heard regarding this person’s reactions to comments on this describe him as belligerent. This is how the town lost the two remaining historic hotels a few years ago. The court case about that became a mental health one. It also figured into the fire bombing of city hall by a frustrated homeless man.

So in retrospect the situation we find our town in was predictable. Even so no one, no organization, was able to look far enough ahead and head it off.

So what’s the town to do? What can it do before it’s too late?

I find myself in the uncomfortable position (because I do not want to see people locked up for being different) of asking the question: Is this person not a danger to others? (or by implication of reactionary vigilante reaction to his behaviour a danger to himself as well?)

Popular culture says that when someone is clearly a danger to themselves or others they can be detained for a period of time for cooling down and observation.
Is that even true?

In BC ‘involuntary admission’ only results in a 48 hour stay and only after a doctor has examined the individual and only if they meet certain criteria. (see page 13 of this PDF). This can be extended to 14 days and even a month but I’m not a mental health professional and it’s not clear to me if any of this would result in a person in this situation being removed from the area until the fire risk was over.

It’s clear to me and others that provincial regulations never envisioned this situation. And given the glacial speed at which change happens I wonder how much of our town, and BC, will have to burn down before regulations reflect reality.

You can watch, and listen, to the discussion in the Committee Of The Whole (35 minutes 17 seconds in) below