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SLRD applies for more grant funding for emergency planning

SLRD briefs: Grants, moving meetings and picking up trash
A fire tornado, or fire whirl, is seen in a video shot by the BC Wildfire Service at Gun Lake in the B.C. Interior overnight on Aug. 17, 2023.

The SLRD has applied for $30,000 in grants for the development of a public notification and emergency communications plan.

The application was to UBCM’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, and according to a staff report the SLRD is in need of more funding to fill gaps in emergency response.

“Throughout multiple wildfire, flood and landslide events in recent years, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has seen record-breaking activations, both in scope and duration,” reads the report.

“During these activations, the communications component of this work is especially challenging and demanding. The demands placed on internal resources as a result of EOC activations is further exacerbated by the lack of an overall public notification/emergency communications plan and related templates that would direct a timely, accurate and efficient public notification system and allow for the prompt dissemination of vital information in an emergency event. This process gap was noted during the after-action reporting by the SLRD EOC Public Information Officer following the Downton Lake and Casper Creek wildfires of summer 2023.”

The grant funding stream can provide 100 per cent of a project's cost up to $30,000—meaning the SLRD is maxing out what it can ask for.

Speaking to the grant application, the SLRD’s director of communications, Patricia Westerholm, explained the SLRD has tools in place to communicate and get information out, but lacks an overall plan.

“That communications function falls to the existing SLRD communications team," she said. "In recent years we’ve been able to access bridging funds to also bring in external contractors while we had an extended EOC event that requires even more communications support than typical … without a plan in place we’re lacking overall direction and templates that can help lead that work, and also knowledge transfer to train additional staff that can support that communications function.

“The hope is that if the grant application is successful we would then develop this plan to help improve our effectiveness and efficiency both during an EOC activation, and outside of that, with our communications efforts.”

Directors voted to support the application. If successful, efforts to develop the communications plan will begin with hiring a contractor.

A change in scenery

The May SLRD board meeting could be a fair ways south in May, with Furry Creek set to host the regular board meeting that month rather than Pemberton.

At the March 27 regular board meeting, directors voted unanimously to meet at the Furry Creek Golf and Country Club at 150 Country Club Road for the April 22 and 23 meetings, which are the regular meeting, and committee of the whole meeting, respectively.

Directors queried whether the new location would be streamed online like the Pemberton meetings are, to which staff responded that with a motion to investigate holding the meeting in Furry Creek, they would be able to stress-test the technology infrastructure on-site and report back if there are any issues.

Pitch in to pick up trash

The SLRD board supported a proclamation to invite all locals to take part in pitch-in week Canada, which is April 22 to 28.

A Canada-wide initiative that has roots in Victoria, the SLRD has proclaimed pitch-in week since 2013 and allocated staff time to coordinate local efforts for the event which is intended to be a community-wide clean-up effort to clear litter and beautify the community.

For 2024, the SLRD intends to promote the week, work with member municipalities on cross-promotion of the event, encourage community groups to register their pitch-in events, and work to organize a 20-minute "clean-up blitz" with other municipalities where staff are encouraged to pick up as much as they can in 20 minutes and then weigh the result, with a blitz champion to be determined.

For locals wanting to take part, the SLRD will also have pitch-in bags available at the SLRD administrative office in Pemberton, and will waive fees for pitch-in bags at the SLRD transfer stations and Lillooet Landfill.

The SLRD will put out more promotional material in the lead-up to pitch in week.