By Vanessa Broadbent
With the future of flooding still unclear, the Town of Oliver is preparing for the worst and building its roster of emergency support service (ESS) volunteers.
In the event of evacuation, ESS volunteers respond to reception centres to help register evacuees and assist with group lodging.
“ESS volunteers plan and provide services such as locations of reception centres and group lodging,” explained Diane Vaykovich, the Town’s corporate officer.
Vaykovich said other duties include working with local businesses, service organizations and government agencies, housing and feeding evacuees, providing services to people who are unable to leave their homes, and supporting other emergency responders.
The Town currently has about seven people who are ESS volunteers, said Vaykovich, but they’re hoping to add more.
Following the evacuations of the Sportsmen’s Bowl Road and the Osoyoos Cottages areas over the weekend, ESS volunteers from Penticton were required to come to Oliver to help.
“When establishing an ESS you must be prepared with a good group of people to deal with the influx of people … ESS centres that stay open 24-7 necessitate the need for many people as shift work would be involved.”
The Town has put out a call for more volunteers. So far four people have expressed interest.
Volunteers will be required to complete a one-day training session in either Oliver, Osoyoos or Penticton, free of charge due to funding from the Province.
The Towns of Oliver and Osoyoos both applied for an emergency social services grant and in return received $25,000.
The funding will help both communities build the ESS program by providing training and purchasing supplies.
“The intent of this funding stream is to support eligible applicants to build local capacity to provide emergency social services through training, volunteer recruitment and retention and the purchase of equipment,” Vaykovich said.
Efforts to improve Oliver’s ESS program began in 2015 when an ESS centre was established during wildfires. After taking a three-day ESS director course, town councillor Maureen Doerr became Oliver’s primary contact for ESS establishment.
Anyone interested in becoming an ESS volunteer is encouraged to submit their name, contact information and a brief description of themselves and why they’d like to volunteer to town by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.