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Westshore municipalities to receive provincial Emergency Support Services funding

Provincial funding and increased training will enhance emergency response in the Westshore

Reviewing emergency evacuation plans. Photo: Shutterstock

On March 18, the provincial government announced it will disperse $3.27 million from its Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) to 100 BC municipalities and First Nations that will provide temporary support, such as accommodation, food, clothing and transportation, for people and families that are being evacuated.

The funding will help a number of communities in the Westshore better prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate-related emergencies.

“Last summer, we heard from people who wanted to help evacuees but faced barriers in getting trained to do so,” said Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness in a release. Many of those evacuees were in communities in the interior mainland, most impacted by last year’s record wildfire season.

“Last summer’s wildfires showed us that people are ready and willing to help their communities and fellow British Columbians,” said Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. “Expanding the training program for Emergency Support Service responders will ensure that any potential evacuees in Langford and Sooke will be supported and have their needs met.”

While Westshore communities aren’t traditionally threatened by seasonal wildfires as often as those in the interior, they do have fire risk vulnerability in their surrounding parks and forests. This year, luck may be on the Westshore’s side. The BC Wildfire Service has said that the Island was one of the places in the province that did return to normal seasonal drought levels before the winter.

It’s not just wildfire risk Westshore communities are exposed to. Being located along the Strait of Juan de Fuca also exposes these areas to flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis. The Capital Region Tsunami Information Portal was launched in September 2022. The portal provides a map of the region which allows residents to see which areas are in a potential hazard zone.

In the event of a magnitude 9 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the CRD predicts a tsunami will reach Port Renfrew in approximately 35 minutes with wave heights of up to 11.5 feet (3.5 metres). Pacheedaaht First Nation near Port Renfrew is also a recipient of the ESS funding. Within 60 minutes with waves of over eight feet (2.5 metres), a tsunami would reach Sooke harbour and reach the Esquimalt harbour within 76 minutes.

“The modernization of Emergency Support Services is an important step in British Columbia to build capacity to support communities in a time when climate related emergencies, like wildfires and floods, are becoming increasingly common,” said Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South.

Langford will receive $26,850 for ESS truck and trailer modifications. Sooke will use their $20K for ESS ERA modernization. Colwood will receive $30K to enhance ESS supplies, equipment and volunteer training there. Esquimalt will also use its $17K to fund training.

View Royal and Metchosin will dedicate their $30K to emergency support set up and supply inventory. View Royal’s 2022 Official Community Plan suggests that the town is expected to be home to 4,000 more residents by 2036, based on BC Stats Population Projections and so the emergency supply inventory funding is timely.

“When British Columbians experience emergencies, Emergency Support Services responders are here for our communities,” said Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin. “New equipment and increased training capacity for Emergency Support Services responders will ensure that people have the essential supports and resources they need during emergencies,” she said in a statement. 

The BC government is also holding a one-day, in-person training for ESS responders starting May 4. The new training model condenses existing week-long trainings and will allow more people to be trained as ESS volunteers. The course will provide practical training for volunteers in the provision of trauma-informed and culturally safe support to people either in-person or over the phone. The training will help smaller communities like those in the Westshore that might not have a large volunteer capacity provide more ESS responders.