A pilot project by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) is reaching into communities to help address emergency communication and emergency preparedness and how the regional district can help remove barriers for residents.
The Community Liaison Program was designed and launched in October 2019 to improve emergency communication and preparedness throughout the Cariboo region. Initially, the program co-ordinator, Stephanie Masun, was organizing to attend local area farmers markets, fairs, events, meetings and places where communities gathered to connect with people about their own emergency preparedness, share tips and resources and to build better local knowledge networks to improve emergency operations with key liaison contact points established throughout rural communities.
To get the program off to a good start, through the fall and winter, Masun was actively connecting with community groups and attending events such as the Quesnel job fair, community coffee meetings in Alexandria and Lac La Hache, hosting an information table at the 2020 Nazko Arts and Music Festival, and presenting at annual general meetings in the South Cariboo to promote the program, talk directly with area residents, and test out the approach to make improvements.
By mid-March, the program reached 200 people and was ready to be out at small and large events and meetings across the region throughout 2020. Then things took a turn, as COVID-19 impacted every organization, community group, household and business here in the region and beyond. While community events are on hold or cancelled, to continue to adapt approaches and find new ways to connect with community members and promote the program messages, Masun has been reaching out to community groups to ask the question “how can we get this messaging out to people now?”
Masun says what she was doing pre-COVID-19 depended on the group and the circumstances. For example, in Alexandria, Masun did a co-facilitation with the local United Way FireSmart team where there was a FireSmart presentation and then she did a household emergency preparedness workshop.
“So it was really led by the group,” she said. “I had my material, but I was also able to address certain issues and concerns. It’s very valuable because people tend to have some similar concerns or some gaps in knowledge. And I do find we have a lot of people who don’t have access to information, and getting out to talk to groups, we managed to capture some of those people who are not using some common mainstream channels for communication. They’re more likely to have a conversation with someone one-on-one or to participate in a group setting where they’re already comfortable. That was the intention of going to people. That was something I had a hunch on, and by doing my test groups, I was able to confirm that the small groups was a really great way to connect into communities. To be endorsed in that community was also a way to open a door to have the conversation and to build some of those relationships and understanding where the resources might be.”
Masun says building relationships is a big part of the program.
“We here really don’t have broad Internet, broad cell service, and the CRD is always adapting and changing, and this is one of the approaches to address some of those gaps and get to have conversations with people — because as people get more information and the correct information, they’re able to be more resilient and self-solve,” she said.
Registering with the Emergency Notification System is Masun’s biggest recommendation to people because it’s vital to be informed.
Masun offers several more emergency preparedness tips to get people going while they are spending more time at home.
“It is well worth the time to be organizing and collecting important documents, reviewing them, reading and understanding insurance policies, and learning more about the process and timelines expected when submitting insurance claims,” she said. “Other documents to be organizing are medical records, prescription and pharmacy contact details, tax and legal documents and identification. Having everything in one place will make tough times easier to get through.”
In addition, she says planning ahead with family, close friends and neighbours about how you will keep in touch and informed throughout an emergency will help a lot during stressful events.
“Knowing how to report and emergency is also a measure to reduce stress,” says Masun. “The CRD’s emergency reporting line for utilities emergencies and floods is 1-800-665-1636 (press 5 after hours). Another important number to have on hand is 1-800-663-5555 (*5555 from a cellular phone) to report a wildfire.”
Lastly, Masun says learning how to stay informed throughout an emergency is important, and she encourages people to sign up for the CRD’s Emergency Notification System and monitor the CRD’s Emergency Operations webpage for up to date information. For those without Internet, the CRD’s emergency information line at 1-866-759-4977 is open when an emergency response is activated in the region.
You can call Stephanie Masun at 250-305-4894 or 1-888-550-9570 for help with signing up for the Emergency Notification System if you do not have access to a computer or Internet and for some more tips on getting your household prepared for emergencies.
For those who have Internet at home, Masun suggests these links:
• Learn more about the Community Liaison Program: cariboord.ca/emergency#clprogram
• Emergency preparedness: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/preparedbc
• CRD Emergency Notification System: https://member.everbridge.net/index/453003085612292#/signup
• CRD Emergency Operations: cariboord.ca/services/emergency-and-protective-services/emergency
Masun says she is also responsive to how they design this program going forward, and she hopes to receive feedback from people during this time.
“It’s about being adaptable,” she said. “That’s the key to resilience, offering resources that are meaningful at the time to the individual — and if we can make this meaningful to people, then it will help build resilience and it will make people more prepared.”
Masun hopes people will get in touch with her if they have questions about household emergency preparedness, the CRD’s Emergency Notification System or how the CRD could improve emergency communication.
This is a pilot project, and with the lessons learned, the CRD will be able to make adjustments to bring local knowledge into emergency operations, explains Masun.
“It will take time, and part of this time right now is to hear as much as we possibly can,” she said.