Hemlock Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program

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HELP is in your community. But, not without you!

The Hemlock Valley Homeowners Association, Sasquatch Mountain Resort and the Hemlock Valley Volunteer Fire Department want to build the village’s first community-led emergency support service, known as a Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP).

On the mountain, it has been dubbed the Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program (HELP)

First introductory Zoom meeting will be happening this October 6th, at 7pm (click here to join meeting “Hemlock Disaster Preparedness Workshop”). This will be followed shortly thereafter by our first in-person information and training session held in the village at the Hemlock Valley Volunteer Firehall on October 15th, from 9am to 12pm.

So, why are we doing this? Why now?

Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. The very nature of an emergency is unpredictable and its development can continue to evolve in scope and impact. Hemlock Valley is a remote, alpine community accessed by a single dubious road and is directly served by a local fire department made up of committed volunteers.

Hemlock Valley firefighters are homeowners too, who want to make a difference in our community. Alas, we are not immune to the transient nature of most other homeowners on the hill. It is difficult to predict how many first responders will be in Hemlock when an emergency happens.

BC Ambulance, RCMP, Kent Search and Rescue and other emergency services are all in the valley and cannot be depended on for quick response times, especially if they are experiencing a high number of calls elsewhere.

Having a greater pool of volunteers in the village that are prepared to deal with an initial emergency is critical to protecting lives, property, and the environment.

Hemlock Valley is growing. It’s busy in the winter during ski season and it’s busy when the snow melts, when construction crews and short-term visitors pile onto the mountain for work and escape. We know that emergencies will occur. Preplanning is essential.

A lot of decisions need to be made in a short period of time at the onset of any emergency. Time, circumstance and available manpower can mean the normal chain of command at the HVVFD can be quickly strained. Added to that, stress of the incident and fractured or non-existent lines of communication to provide warnings, instructions or to send out requests for assistance to the community can result in poor judgement and added preventable losses.

The Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program (HELP) will be a volunteer-based, community-led emergency response organization that provides for the short-term needs of evacuees and first responders in the event of a disaster or emergency. Generally, these short-term (up to 72 hours) services are required to preserve the emotional and physical well-being of evacuees and are typically provided in a Reception Centre, or a designated Assembly Area.

When people are forced to evacuate their homes, whether it is their primary residence or a weekend rental accommodation, they may require assistance with essential services to maintain life and health. A Reception Centre and/or Assembly Area is opened and operated by trained HELP volunteers in order to provide a safe place where evacuees from an affected area can gather to register, get information, and receive the assistance they need.

Hemlock Valley Volunteer Fire Department and the Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program are always in need of new volunteers. Disaster work offers a unique opportunity for individuals to get involved and help others when help is needed most. Working in this field challenges volunteers to stretch their own limits and potential. Village HELP teams and Hemlock Valley Fire are keen and eager for local volunteers who:

  • have a concern for people affected by disaster with a desire to help;
  • have good communication skills;
  • have a positive “team” attitude;
  • are willing to learn;
  • can respond (sometimes on short notice);
  • are flexible and work well as part of a team;
  • are in good health; and
  • have a sense of adventure.

No specific skills are required to become a HELP volunteer. However, skills such as volunteer management, interviewing, supervisory and second languages are great assets.

The Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program (HELP) volunteers assist at disaster sites and provide essential basic needs for evacuees in the village, at reception centres and/or at designated Assembly Areas.

Developing an emergency response plan in advance, providing training and support to volunteers, continuously reviewing and revising it, and effectively communicating it to all is integral to the successful management of an incident.

Because instilling a sense of confidence in homeowners, Sasquatch Mountain Resort staff and all the visitors to the hill that they will know how to react regardless of the situation will be priceless when minutes count.

Notice I did not write ‘could be priceless when minutes count.’ Remember, emergencies ‘will’ happen. We can prepare for them now.

Because when an emergency strikes, preparations end.

The objective of the Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program (HELP) is to help emergency services:

  • Prevent fatalities and injuries;
  • Reduce damage to property, buildings, and infrastructure;
  • Improve communications between emergency services, Sasquatch Mountain Resort, and the community;
  • Protect the environment;
  • Accelerate the resumption of normal operations.

Aside from the obvious benefits of providing guidance during an emergency for HELP volunteers and civilians, the act of planning itself can identify various deficiencies such as a lack of resources (equipment, trained personnel, supplies), or items that can be proactively resolved with the HVVFD, Sasquatch Mountain Resort, the HVHA, the Province of BC and even the FVRD. In addition, a plan promotes safety awareness and shows the HVHA’s, Sasquatch Mountain Resort’s and the HVVFD’s commitment to everyone’s well-being while in the village.

If you want to help and be a part of a crucial team in your community, join us for our introductory Zoom meeting on October 6th at 7pm (Click this link to join the meeting “Hemlock Disaster Preparedness Workshop”). This will be followed by our first Hemlock Emergency Lookout Program (HELP) in-person information and training session taking place in the village at the Hemlock Valley Volunteer Firehall scheduled for October 15th, 9am to 12pm (venue TBA).

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