Spring into emergency safety preparations

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 12:15pm

Spring has sprung in the Central Okanagan and while our valley gets greener, it also means local governments, industry experts and residents are keeping a close eye on conditions.

We know the snowpack is low, spring snowmelt is early and the weather has been favourable, however, industry and government experts say there is potential risk of high groundwater issues, including saturated soil and land slippages. The drier conditions also raise concerns of an elevated wildfire risk as we head into the later spring and summer months. Some wildfires are already being reported and responded to in some parts of the province.

Regardless of the emergency – flooding, land slippages or wildfires – the Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre is ready and prepared if needed to support field crews responding to any emergency that may occur in our region. Significant mitigation work has also been done by local governments within the region to increase creek capacity, repair and protect public infrastructure and clean-up the foreshore to minimize flooding risk and impacts. Many fire fuel reduction projects have also been done over the years in parks and on public lands to lower the severity of fires.

“We’re ready, our systems are in place and we ask that residents do their part too,” said Sandra Follack, Central Okanagan Emergency Program Coordinator and Deputy Chief with the Kelowna Fire Department. “It’s much easier, and less stressful, to be prepared before there is a need: make sure you know the risks, make a plan and get a kit.”

When creating an emergency plan, consider the following:

  • At least two ways to safely get out of your house and neighbourhood
  • Speak with your children’s daycare and schools about their evacuation plans and how you can meet up safely with your children
  • If you are caring for individuals with diverse abilities or special needs you may need extra assistance, equipment and time to help everyone evacuate safely
  • Include your pets or farm animals in your plan
  • Designate a safe area meeting place in case you get separated from your family
  • Practice the evacuation routes

An emergency kit should include non-perishable food and bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlight, whistle and extra clothing and blankets. Some less-thought-of items include: extra prescriptions or medication, sanitizing wipes, mobile device chargers, cash in small bills and coins as bank systems may not be working and a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio to get news and updates since email and cell service may be down.

On Friday, April 12 at 11:30 a.m. tune in for an informative Facebook Live (facebook.com/CORDEmergency) to learn more about what to include in an emergency kit. More information and links to valuable resources such as the provincial PreparedBC, can also be found at cordemergency.ca/beprepared.

In addition to having a plan and a kit, residents should also consider:

  • Installing a sump pump and checking that foundation drains (if present) are working if they have historically experienced wet basements or seepage. Do not pump water into the sanitary sewer system.
  • Having the tools and plans in place to keep private property safe: private property owners are responsible for protecting their structures from possible flood damage.
  • Knowing where water and power shutoffs are located.
  • Inspecting nearby culverts or storm drains to clear accumulated debris so that water can flow easily.
  • Checking with FrontCounter BC, for any special authorization or permits that may be required before doing any work in and around water courses or sensitive areas within the electoral areas.
  • Being cautious around creeks as water can unexpectedly rise and flow faster during the spring freshet, even if there is little to no flooding risk. Keep children and pets a safe distance from creek banks which may be slippery or subject to erosion.
  • Watching for floating debris when boating on local lakes, as logs and large debris may have floated from tributaries.
  • FireSmart your property while conducting spring gardening and cleanup.

In the event that the Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) gets activated, the latest information will be available online at the EOC Public Information website cordemergency.ca and via Facebook (facebook.com/CORDEmergency) and Twitter (twitter.com/CO_Emerg).

Central Okanagan residents are encouraged to subscribe on the website to receive email notifications from the Emergency Program.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan Emergency Program is coordinated by the Kelowna Fire Department on behalf of the Regional District, the cities of Kelowna and West Kelowna, districts of Lake Country and Peachland, and Westbank First Nation.