BVESS director Matt Herzog (second from the right) presents awards on behalf of Emergency Management B.C. to the Town of Smithers and local volunteers for their work during last year’s wildfire season. Cassidy Muir photo

Recruitment top priority for Bulkley Valley Emergency Support Services

BVESS provided an update of their work so far in 2018 and presented two awards at a town council.

Bulkley Valley Emergency Support Services (BVESS) provided an update of their work so far in 2018 and presented two awards at a town council meeting July 24.

BVESS director Matt Herzog gave council a presentation recapping their last six months of operation. He said more local organizations, including the Bulkley Valley Christian School and Smithers Christian Reformed Church, have offered their spaces for reception and group lodging centers in the event of an emergency.

“We’ve also sent a [memorandum of understanding] forward to the School District 54 to be able to use some of their facilities too. If we had a large level 3 or level 4 event like Prince George had last year, we would be able to facilitate that many more people.

“We’ve also brought on some new suppliers: the Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge we just signed on, Smithers Feed Store, Noir Kitchen and Bar, [and Fields],” Herzog reported.

He reported that BVESS membership has gone up since January.

“In January 2018 we had 10 active members and 13 [on-call] members … In June of 2018 we had 32 new volunteers and 12 standby volunteers.”

Herzog said he considers recruitment one of his top priorities.

“Gaining new volunteers is extremely crucial to making this team function effectively … it’s a safety issue to make sure we don’t burn out the volunteers that we have and that we’re not running people 12 or 13 hours ragged when we have a facility that’s opened up. The more volunteers we have, the shorter the hours are at these facilities, and the more volunteers we have that are able to respond to local emergencies.

“We are actively looking for more volunteers; we’ve had some discussions about what our cap is for the number of volunteers, and I’m going to be honest when I say I don’t think there is a cap … The more volunteers we have, the more we’re able to offer the people of the Bulkley Valley and regional district that are going to be coming to us if there is a large emergency.”

As for the future, Herzog listed the goals of the BVESS over the next six months. They include a muster location where volunteers can access equipment, new more efficient dispatch software, and an on-call rotation system.

“We’ll be breaking the team into three groups; each group will be responsible for being on-call one week out of the month, which is basically pretty close to what the fire department does also. Each company will have an individual who’s in charge if there’s an activation … myself or whoever will have the ESS phone will contact that individual who’s in charge of the team and either go and respond to a small event, or if we need to activate the entire team we can do that very quickly.”

At the end of his presentation, Herzog awarded two plaques on behalf of Emergency Management BC. The first went to the Town of Smithers for support provided to individuals evacuated from Williams Lake, and the second was presented to local volunteers that helped with the Williams Lake evacuation, responded to Prince George, and staffed the Smithers reception center during the wildfire season last year.

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