On Wednesday, November 9th, the Newcomers gathered in the hall lounge for our monthly meeting. After a quick round of introductions (we do that to start every meeting, to help us remember names. That’s a struggle that can feel overwhelming when you first make the move to Pender!), we were ready to welcome our guest speaker. This month’s speaker was Pat Haugh, the coordinator of the Pender Islands Emergency Support Services.
Pat brought a wonderful display of resources for us, and began with an overview of what she had to offer—everything from what to pack in your emergency kit to planning to care for pets in a crisis situation. She explained that the Support Services mandate is firstly, to support our First Responders—which includes preparing food, acting as civilian helpers, manning reception centres, etc. Secondly, they support neighbourhoods. Both islands have been divided up into neighbourhoods; each neighbourhood has a contact person and an alternate, and has set up a telephone tree. Thirdly, they help and support individual households prepare for, and respond to, an emergency.
It was very impressive to hear how prepared and trained the Emergency Support members are. It was good to know that we have three reception centres on Pender, and the makings of a field hospital at the school. Many people ask about evacuation routes, but we learned that they can’t be “written in stone” because the routes would be determined according to the specific emergency.
It was also really interesting to know that early in 2017 we will be switching to a mass contact system that can phone up to 10,000 people in 10 minutes—a big time saver over the telephone trees! We will be receiving more information about it closer to the time it is unveiled.
Newcomers were left with information on preparing, storing, and updating our own emergency supplies, and much to consider in planning to be as independent as possible in a crisis. It is also important to have a neighbourhood meeting from time to time, so that everyone is aware of their contact person, medical supplies, and the possibility of neighbours who might need some extra assistance.