B.C. forest firefighters head into an area south of Lytton to perform a back-burn, June 17, 2021. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

COLUMN: Preparing for a wildfire emergency

Household emergency preparedness important as fires rage

At the time of writing, no Summerland residents are under evacuation alert or evacuation order. As we know — and have witnessed time and time again — it can be just a matter of minutes before that can change.

The province has plenty of information on household emergency preparedness, including a Home Emergency Plan that you can print and fill in the blanks. Search for “BC home emergency plan.”

The plan includes the expected, such as names and contact information for household members, number and type of pets or livestock, a layout of the house with exits and a muster point. It also includes what to pack in your go bag and first aid kit, the location of your utilities, and the all-important documents and medications.

READ ALSO: Wildfire worries continue: Fire risk remains high to extreme over most of southern B.C.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Pack your grab-and-go bag before the evacuation alert

It is highly recommended that you create a home emergency plan and ensure that all household members understand it so that, should household members not be at home during time of evacuation, they know exactly what to do and where to reconnect.

The province is also asking that, should you be evacuated, your plan includes arrangements to stay with family or friends. It is the height of the tourism season and hotels and other accommodations are filled with travellers; it may be difficult to book a room, even for a short-term stay.

The overarching message is preparedness. When you are on emergency alert or need to evacuate, is not the time to be developing a plan!

But property owners are not having to go it alone.

In a time of emergency that may necessitate evacuation (such as a flood or wildland fire), Summerland has an emergency plan in place that includes robust communications through the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen Emergency Operations Centre. Depending on the situation, designated municipal staff may be seconded to the Emergency Operations Centre as well.

The regional district has a dedicated webpage for updated and official emergency information and resources — including links to videos — on preparedness and recovery at emergency.rdos.bc.ca. You can also sign up for emergency notifications on this webpage.

The District also has a fully trained and experienced Emergency Support Services team that is always ready to activate very quickly. In Summerland, the Emergency Support Services team establishes a registration base at the Summerland Arena and curling club and provides support services to registrants.

Through the provincial FireSmartBC program, the Summerland Fire Department has been proactively managing fuel loads on areas identified as high risk of wildland fire impacts within the district. Fire chief Glenn Noble has already closed Giant’s Head Mountain Park to vehicular traffic and, if the above-average temperatures and dry conditions continue, will consider closing other recreational trails in the area.

FireSmart also has a program that provides resources to help property owners who live within a wildland urban interface — an area or zone where human development (for example, homes) meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetation fuels. View the video at firesmartbc.ca/firesmart-canada-neighbourhood-recognition-program-fcnrp to see the work done by Summerland’s Deer Ridge neighbourhood — the 100th community in B.C. to become certified FireSmart.

Wildland fire and other emergencies are beyond our control. But we can do what we can to be prepared and council is taking every opportunity to advance adaptation and mitigation programs.

As we’ve heard before, it takes a community.

Toni Boot is the mayor of Summerland.

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