I attended and participated in an excellent training workshop designed for Council members, provided by our Fire Department and our Emergency Services Manager Eileen Grant.  This was a two-day session and planned, in part, as a response to the Bowker flood emergency that occurred in November 2012.  You will recall that the municipality commissioned a complete review of this incident to determine where we needed to improve our response during such a community emergency.

The session was intensive and brought together emergency services’ personnel, municipal staff, fire and police, support staff and Council members.  The session ended with an emergency mock-up exercise that used the Bowker flood emergency as a model.

I was impressed with the teamwork, professionalism and skill of all of the Oak Bay staff involved in the exercise.  From communicating in an emergency, to site management, to information-sharing and to the roles of each of the designated emergency operations’ personnel, including the role of Council, I learned how important it is that each group supports one another and ultimately, supports the community to address and mitigate the impacts of an emergency situation.

I learned that first and foremost, are the concerns for and care of impacted residents, the development and implementation of an action plan and the commitment of everyone involved to tackle the incident and to ensure that the community is regularly updated with factual information whenever it becomes available.  We all have a vital role to play, both as staff, emergency responders, elected representatives and volunteers.

Key to effectively managing an emergency include defining responsibilities such as considering policies, setting expenditure limits, requesting outside supports and resources, declaring a state of local emergency, assisting public information and acknowledging the contributions of response and recovery staff and volunteers.

I believe that nothing brings together a community as quickly as an emergency.  Remember the blizzard of 1997?  Communities, neighbours and professionals pulled together to help one another in ways that had not before been seen.

I thank all of the Oak Bay staff, professionals and volunteers who are there for all of us when an emergency strikes.  Based on this workshop, ultimately, I believe that we are in good hands.

For more information, please contact the Oak Bay Fire Department or visit the Oak Bay Municipal website.