A group of Hope citizens staged a peaceful demonstration outside Hope District Hall Monday night, drawing attention to emergency planning.
The Hope Citizens Emergency Disaster Planning Committee (HCEDPC) was formed recently, with the belief that Hope is not properly prepared to respond to an earthquake, flooding, or a wildfire like the one that burned Lytton to the ground three months ago.
The group showed up to Monday’s council meeting with a specific goal in mind.
They had in hand a completed application for something called the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative. Administered by the Union of BC Municipalities, funding from the initiative helps communities mitigate the risks of wildfire.
According to HCEDPC spokesperson Kathy Koopman, more than 300 communities throughout the province have benefited from the program.
“Since 2004, $68-million dollars has been directed to local governments and First Nations to reduce the risks of wildfire,” Koopman said. “Through this initiative, private property owners can apply for a wildfire risk assessment, and a wood-chipper is supplied, 100 per cent funded, to go around the neighborhoods. Our thought was, ‘Wow. This would be such a wonderful thing for our community, and if more than 300 other communities have already had this service, why not us?’
Monday was the last council meeting before the Oct. 8 filing deadline, and the HCEDPC was hoping Council would pass a resolution supporting the application.
“We noticed on Friday (Sept. 24) that it was not on the agenda, and our request was that the agenda be amended so they could pass a resolution for the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative,” Koopman said.
That didn’t happen, but she said there were good conversations outside of the building as mayor Peter Robb and councillors filed past demonstrators and headed in for their meeting.
She’s hopeful they’ll reconsider supporting the application next year.
Koopman and another HCEDPC member followed them into the building and had the chance to address other concerns during a question and answer period that included Hope Fire Chief Tom DeSorcy.
“One of our questions was about forming an Emergency Services Group (ESS), which would be funded by Emergency Management BC and provide short term support for people impacted by disasters,” Koopman said. “We realized there was a huge hole for ESS in Hope when people from Lytton were bypassing Hope and being sent to Chilliwack’s ESS, and we would like to have an ESS here.”
The HCEDPC is also looking to have more info on the District of Hope website about what to do during a disaster.
“Where do people go for ESS services? How will evacuations be coordinated? How will orders be communicated? What is the procedural plan?” Koopman asked. “We’d like a question and answer section on the website so everyone can have access to that information.
“What do we do during a disaster? What do we do after a disaster? People are asking these questions.”
Koopman said all suggestions were well received and she’s hopeful there will be progress.
She said the HCEDPC wants to work collaboratively and not confrontationally, and their focus will continue to be on education.
“Public awareness and support is a crucial element of emergency planning,” Koopman said. “If everyone does their part, from first responders to government to homeowners, then we will have the best-made plans for the worst-case scenario.”