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Comment: Unprecedented events warn us to get ready

A commentary by Colin Plant, chair of the Capital Regional District and a Saanich councillor.
A view from above of repairs underway on the Malahat on Nov. 17, 2021, after heavy rain and flooding damaged to highway. MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION

A commentary by Colin Plant, chair of the Capital Regional District and a Saanich councillor.

The recent extreme weather reminded us all of the very real impacts of climate change as well as the importance of working together as communities and as part of a greater region to prepare and respond to emergencies.

Now more than ever we need to take steps to mitigate hazards and vulnerabilities as much as possible to help us to quickly recover.

The capital region on Southern Vancouver Island had its share of challenges from highway and road closures to wastewater overflows.

In addition to the closure on the Malahat, the electoral areas of Juan de Fuca, Salt Spring Island and Southern Gulf Islands faced significant challenges in the form of flooding, washouts, water advisories and road closures.

The CRD provides local emergency coordination for these areas and I am grateful for the patience and resilience those communities have shown.

As we hear and see ongoing difficulties and devastation across the province, many of us have begun to ask “what next”? While we have a lot to be thankful for including the significant effort and resources made available to respond to the impacts of extreme weather, I want to highlight the work that is being done, and support we are receiving, to prepare for and mitigate some of the risks that can contribute to a greater emergency or disaster.

I also wish to assure residents that there are mechanisms in place to activate a coordinated regional response if the situation had escalated further on Southern Vancouver Island. The Regional Emergency Management Partnership was put in place in 2018 with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Province of B.C. and the Capital Regional District to focus on three priorities:

• Understanding regional emergencies, hazards and vulnerabilities to support loss prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

• Planning for collaborative emergency response, business continuity and disaster recovery by regional partners.

• Enhancing regional emergency management governance, capabilities and efficiency.

A key element of the work is the introduction of a Regional Concept of Operations with participation of local governments and First Nations in decisions at the regional level. This agreement means that there are steps in place to coordinate a regional response to major events. For example, coordination of communications and reception centres.

The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and CRD Board Chair have policy oversight over this effort and I recently met with Minister Mike Farnworth to review this initiative and the work being done to prepare for what’s ahead, including identifying the major hazards to be addressed through infrastructure investments and changes as well as an integrated notification and regional evacuation plan.

On behalf of the CRD, I look forward to continued partnership with the Province, First Nations and local governments to work together to address challenges today and prepare for the future.

It’s the unfortunate reality that unprecedented events like this are warnings of what is to come. We are committed to do the work required to be ready for what’s ahead.