In the event of another China Nose Fire or the “Big One” that some scientists predict could be right around the corner, thousands of emergency social services (ESS) workers will jump into action to help those affected by natural disasters.
The provincially-run program teaches volunteers to provide people involved in emergency disasters with essential services such as food, shelter, clothing and family reunification. Volunteers may be called to help with anything from single-house fires or calamities to mass evacuations.
Kathy Wilkie and Krista Scott are two of those volunteers with the Telkwa ESS.
In August of last year, Wilkie was called to help victims of the China Nose Fire which spread between Houston and Burns Lake.
She was part of the team responsible for setting up lodging for families who were being evacuated. They set up cots and paperwork in the Lakes District Secondary School to give families a place to stay. Though no one ended up needing temporary housing services, Wilkie said she spent two days learning from some of the best in the province.
“What I got out of it most was that I met so many people. Because we didn’t have any evacuees, we had time to pick their brains and go over some of the paperwork,” she said.
“We had time to sit and talk with people who have a lot of experience and then with the Red Cross, we had time to network. You get a lot of really good exposure to experienced people. That’s what I enjoy about it.”
Currently, there are eight active members with the Telkwa ESS.
According to volunteers, the number of members has dropped over the last year and they are looking to boost their numbers again.
Scott, who has been with the program for a few months, heard about it through a friend.
“I just wanted the ability to be able to help people when something bad happens so I’m not feeling so helpless,” she said.
Training for services including first aid, learning to deal with people’s pets and transportation are offered for free through the ESS Office and the Justice Institute of B.C. either online or in person.
“Anybody can put themselves in a mindset of what they would do in a disaster of, how they would feel. It’s nice to know that you are that anybody and you also have the tools to help for people who are in that situation,” said Wilkie.
“You can give them a comfortable place to sleep, food and give them a place where their pets can be looked after. All those worries that people have when people are evacuated from their homes.”
The Telkwa ESS meet once a month and some meetings will include mock disasters. The next meeting is April 20 at 7 p.m. at the Village of Telkwa office.
For more information, contact Scott at 250-846-9336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.