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Peace Region municipalities prep for emergencies

When disaster strikes in the Peace, a committed group of unpaid professionals from the District of Taylor, population 1,500, are the unsung heroes who bring expertise spanning 20 years to help those in need.
Moira Clark, a director with Taylor Emergency Social Service, and Brian Lamond, president of the Taylor Industrial Mutual Aid Group, are leaders in emergency response. - Bronwyn Scott Photo

When disaster strikes in the Peace, a committed group of unpaid professionals from the District of Taylor, population 1,500, are the unsung heroes who bring expertise spanning 20 years to help those in need.

The Taylor Emergency Social Services (ESS) team, which provides shelter, food and care for the first 72 hours after an emergency, has been around for two decades, and some of the 36-member team has been around since its inception.

Moira Clark is one such example. She’s responded to floods, fires, missing person calls, and more, all over the region.

“There’s lots of things that happen. Unexpected things that you have to be ready for,” she said in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.

Clark, a director with the Taylor ESS, received a Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer Award from Attorney General Suzanne Anton last year for her work.

“They’re all volunteers who work very hard. They’ve gone to Dawson Creek, they’ve gone to Fort St. John. The Taylor ESS is kind of known in the region to be the go-to team because they’ve been around for so many years,” said Laura Prosko, community services director for Taylor.


Early wildfires highlight need

Only now, with this year’s early start to the wildfire season, and the Beatton Airport Road and Siphon Creek wildfires that led to the Peace River Regional District declaring a State of Local Emergency, have the larger municipalities of Dawson Creek and Fort St. John started stepping up their game.

“It’s on top of everybody’s mind lately,” Prosko said. As the ESS Department falls under the community services portfolio, she’s been fielding questions about how the ESS functions.

“Because so many emergencies have happened, and with Fort McMurray as well, people are asking, what do people do on ESS? They have quite extensive training, so these volunteers are ‘unpaid professionals,’” Prosko explained.

Training is ongoing. In addition to attending regular meetings and mock exercises, members take courses to specialize in specific areas of response, which the District of Taylor funds.

“We’re sending two people right now to an Emergency Management British Columbia course in Vancouver, we have people that have taken the registration and referrals course, the logistics course, the ESS director course. There’s lots and lots of different courses,” said Prosko.

“We are way ahead of Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, so it’s good that they’re starting things up and they’re aware of that ... for 1,500 people and a small municipal budget, they’ve really done a good job in Taylor to maximize emergency preparedness.”

In addition to the ESS team, Taylor also has the Taylor Industrial Mutual Aid Group (TIMAG), comprised of 40 partners ranging from industry groups like Spectra, AltaGas, Canfor Pulp, Progress Energy and Cameron River Logging to the BC Ambulance Service, RCMP and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

TIMAG’s objective is to ensure that they have the best capable response to an incident in the District of Taylor, with members helping one another out in emergencies by sharing resources and communication.

“Anybody within the organization can request assistance, and then it’s up to the rest of us to provide that assistance ... we all sign the agreement and we’re all part of that agreement,” said Brian Lamond, TIMAG president.


Training sessions planned

While Fort St. John’s formal ESS team is still in its infancy, many volunteers from Fort St. John stepped up to help with registering evacuees and other tasks during the wildfire evacuations last month. More than 90 residents filled out the necessary paperwork to become an ESS team member, according to Robin Langille, facilities manager with the City of Fort St. John.

The city has begun hosting ESS training courses, with the next free training session on June 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pomeroy Sport Centre.

“Taylor has trained people, now that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Langille.

The City of Dawson Creek is also getting proactive about emergency preparedness.

“We’re in the process of arranging for or developing our own ESS group or program,” said Bob Fulton, deputy fire chief with the Dawson Creek Fire Department. “In the meantime, we do ESS to a small scale, but we also have put Taylor’s ESS team to work ... Taylor’s is a very well organized and practiced team.”

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