Date: April 6, 2000
Author/Local: Patti Marfleet/6067
RTS No. 01426
CC File No. 3601
Council: May 2, 2000
Vancouver City Council
Director Risk & Emergency Management in conjunction with the Emergency Management Committee (City Manager, Chief Constable, Regional Medical Health Officer and General Managers Engineering, Fire and Rescue Services, and Park Board)
Emergency Management Priorities
THAT Council endorse the general priorities for emergency planning, outlined in this report, and refer the specific proposed expenditures to the regular budget process.
CITY MANAGER'S COMMENTS
The City Manager notes that the City's record in emergency planning over the past decade is an impressive one. Significant capital projects and programs have vastly improved the City's ability to respond to and cope with a major disaster such as an earthquake. However, much remains to be done. The priorities outlined in this report, while more modest in terms of financial investment, will provide the City with a sensible, progressive direction for its continuing planning and mitigation efforts.
In 1990 Council identified Emergency Preparedness as one of the City's seven corporate priorities and supported the continuation of an expanded work program in this area. Over the past ten years, through funding commitments to specific capital improvements and leadership on major emergency mitigation initiatives such as E-Comm, Dedicated Fire Protection, and Urban Search and Rescue, Council has demonstrated a high level of commitment to emergency preparedness.
The purpose of this report is to update Council on the status of the City's emergency planning efforts over the past decade and to recommend priorities for future emergency planning initiatives.
Over the past ten years Council has placed a high priority on emergency planning and has invested in important projects which have significantly enhanced its response capability: improved fire protection through the Dedicated Fire Protection System, the fast-response fire boats and drafting capability for fire apparatus; emergency potable water supplies through underground wells at Langara and McCleery golf courses; seismic upgrades to major lifeline bridges; a purpose-built, post-disaster emergency operations centre; the urban search and rescue team; a post-disaster 9-1-1 dispatch facility and radio system for emergency services; an emergency social services program to provide shelter and support to disaster victims; an amateur radio organization dedicated to disaster communications; regular emergency exercises; and external coordination through the Regional Emergency Coordination Centre and Joint Emergency Liaison Committee.
The recommended priorities for the next decade would see a greater focus on training and preparedness in the community, gradual minimization of seismic risk in private buildings, improved sheltering and support capability for victims of a disaster and emergency supplies and minor upgrades in City facilities to support response efforts. The proposed priorities are as follows:
Partners in Preparedness: Under this program the City will actively seek private sector partners to reduce costs and improve capability associated with emergency preparedness initiatives. In tenders the city will seek supply and purchase of a portion of required supplies, with guaranteed access to private inventories in an emergency. A program to visibly recognize the City's partners would cost approximately $5000 annually.
Minimization of Seismic Risk in Buildings: This is the subject of a companion report and involves developing a comprehensive, long-term program to gradually abate seismic hazards from buildings throughout the City.
Improved Sheltering Capability: This involves pre-positioning supplies at community centres throughout the City to provide essential items required to support displaced victims of an earthquake in the immediate aftermath, before provincial or federal aid becomes available. The supplies will include first aid supplies, cots, blankets, flashlights, etc. and over the next decade the City would target five community centres each year at an annual cost of $175,000. A companion report addresses the need to conduct a seismic assessmentof potential shelter sites.
Community Programs: A comprehensive public information and training program to assist individuals, families, businesses, and communities to become better prepared. This program will provide information and training in a variety of formats, languages, and locations. It will include the continuation of the annual safety fair to promote preparedness. The annual cost of this program will be $55 - 75,000.
Emergency Supplies in City Facilities: To ensure effective emergency response it is important that staff who may be in City facilities, at City work sites, or in City vehicles have access to basic emergency supplies to support them, including food, water, first aid kit, flashlight etc. The annual cost of this ten-year initiative would be about $25,000.
Minor Earthquake-Proofing of City Buildings: Even a minor earthquake can make a facility non-functional, and may result in injury, if non-structural items such bookcases, light fixtures, and computers are not secured. A ten-year program to address all City facilities would cost approximately $50,000 annually.
Compared to the expenditures the City has made over the past decade in upgrading and establishing its key emergency response infrastructure, the priorities outlined in this report represent a much more modest level of investment. However, the Emergency Management Committee believes that these are an important and appropriate continuation of the City's emergency planning and will enhance both the City's and the community's ability to prepare for, respond to, and cope with a major emergency. The Emergency Management Committee is seeking Council endorsement of the general priorities; specific proposed expenditures would be referred to the regular budget process.
In October Council approved centralizing City-wide budget for emergency supplies, public information, employee training, and emergency exercises in the Risk and Emergency Management Office. The priorities proposed in this report represent City-wide emergency planning priorities. The budget will be administered under the direction of the Emergency Management Committee. Individual departments will continue to budget for specific emergency planning initiatives relative to their departmental operations.
To date the City's emergency planning priorities have focussed on upgrade and development of key City infrastructure to address life safety and property issues and ensure reliable response capability. The recommended priorities for the future would see a greater focus on preparedness in the community; minimization of seismic risk in city and private buildings; improved sheltering capability for victims of a disaster; and more widespread community preparedness information and training. These programs would be phased over the next tenyears, to reduce the financial impact on the City yet maintain a reasonable pace of advancing emergency preparedness.
Over the past ten years, the City has invested significantly in mitigation work and capital facility upgrades to provide core emergency response capability. Appendix A sets out examples of major emergency preparedness initiatives Council has implemented. These collectively represent a major improvement in the City's emergency response capability. With this key infrastructure in place, it is recommended that the City's efforts and focus turn to community preparedness initiatives. Investment in these initiatives will mean that the community will be better able to withstand and cope with an emergency; a well-prepared community will permit the City to concentrate its efforts on restoring services as quickly as possible.
Staff will seek partnership arrangements and sponsorships, both to enhance the initiatives outlined in this report and, wherever possible, to reduce costs. In addition some revenue is received from filming activities in the Emergency Operations Center and this money will be used to help offset costs.
The priorities identified in this report are major projects. If approved, they will be carried out in conjunction with regular emergency planning work to update emergency response plans; training and exercises for City staff; the development of the City's recovery plan, including the plans around an alternate City Hall, and plans for the provision of City services following a disaster.
The following are the proposed program priorities for the next decade:
Partners in Preparedness
Major emergencies or disasters are infrequent; yet they can quickly drain municipal resources. It would not be reasonable for the City to acquire all the supplies and resources it would need to respond to a major disaster. However the City can prepare for such an eventuality by having plans and agreements in place which give it pre-authorized access to private inventories. This is the principle behind the "Partners in Preparedness" program which Council approved in October 1999. Partnerships already exist with many suppliers, particularly in the Emergency Social Services program. These will be expanded and partnership arrangements will be pursued to reduce costs and improve capability wherever possible. In tenders for emergency goods and services, the City will seek supply andpurchase of a portion of needed supplies and equipment, supplemented by pre-authorized access to supplier inventory for additional needs, in an emergency. This will ensure the City has a base supply to address immediate, emergency needs which is then augmented through the partners ' supplies.
The Partners in Preparedness program will include visible recognition and appreciation of partners . It is estimated that this program will cost approximately $5000 annually to cover the costs of producing certificates, plaques, and decals for partnership recognition.
Minimization of Seismic Risk in Private Buildings
In December Council approved a work program for Community Services staff to review the provisions of the Vancouver Building By-Law which establish upgrading requirements for existing buildings. The central aim of this study is to rationalize seismic upgrading of private buildings and integrate this into a wider strategy for the mitigation of seismic risk in buildings throughout the City. This strategy would encompass both private and City-owned buildings. This initiative is the subject of a companion report from the City Building Inspector.
Improved Sheltering Capability
In a significant disaster such as an earthquake, it is likely that many residents would be displaced. In the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, for example, 41% of the population was displaced from their homes; the Taiwan earthquake displaced 33%. In a major earthquake Vancouver could expect a similar experience. While the City would ultimately look to senior levels of government to provide shelters and supporting supplies, that aid would likely take some time. In the initial stages of the disaster the City would need to make some provision for the urgent needs of displaced victims.
As part of the City's Emergency Plan the Park Board administers an Emergency Social Services program to provide shelter, food, clothing, minor first aid and other services to victims of a disaster. The program depends on hundreds of trained volunteers and utilizes such agencies as Red Cross, St. John's Ambulance, and the Salvation Army.
Following a disaster Emergency Social Services teams would establish emergency shelters, initially using the City's 26 community centers. Public schools would also be used as additional shelters, if needed, and staff are continuing to work to identify low-risk buildings and facilities throughout the City that could potentially be used as additional shelters in the event of a major earthquake.
Regardless where shelters are established, it is important that the staff and volunteers have access to the supplies and equipment they will need to provide services and support. Evenif some designated centers are not useable access to necessary stores will allow alternate facilities and open spaces to be used to meet the needs of displaced citizens. Through the Partners in Preparedness program the City will seek access to private supplies of tents and mobile food services. These arrangements will supplement whatever capability the City has. It would be reasonable for the City to establish a capability through a combination of pre-positioned supplies, as well as access arrangements to private stocks, until Provincial and Federal assistance arrived in the form of additional sheltering and personal care supplies
It is proposed that basic supplies be pre-positioned at community centres throughout the City so that they can be accessed in an emergency. Supplies would include such items as emergency first aid equipment, cots, blankets, tools, some minimal food rations, flashlights, and administrative supplies to support the shelter set-up. These supplies would, in conjunction with arrangements through the Partners in Preparedness program, provide basic essentials to open a shelter and address immediate needs within a community until provincial and federal aid becomes available. The cost of these supply caches will be approximately $35,000 each and the plan would be to purchase and pre-position them at a rate of five per year until they are at each of the 26 community centres. The supply containers will be clearly labeled and will be a visible sign of the City's commitment to preparedness within each community. The annual cost of this program would be about $175,000.
Training City staff is essential for an effective response to a major emergency. Equally important, however, is to inform and train the public to prepare for and cope with emergency conditions. A well-prepared community will mean that emergency services can concentrate on the most pressing priorities and re-establish services as quickly as possible.
Over the past five years the Fire Department has been providing neighborhood training in personal and family preparedness to community groups on request, primarily in strata developments. This is a valuable and worthwhile initiative and has been met with very positive feedback. However in isolation this training will not make an appreciable impact on the City's sizeable, diverse, and mobile population.
To be effective, the Emergency Management Committee believes that the City needs to launch a broader, more comprehensive community training and information program which provides a variety of parallel public information initiatives. To reach various segments of the population information needs to be available on the Internet, in brochures, in pre-scheduled recurring courses, in radio and television spots, in City tax notices and community newspapers, as part of community events and safety fairs as well as in targeted presentations to community groups. It needs to be available in multiple languages and needs to be supported and promoted through a visible public information campaign. It needs to betailored to address the needs of the homeowner, the tenant, the student and the business or commercial occupant.
The goal of this program is to provide communities with the information, training, and skills necessary to be self-sufficient for seventy-two hours after a disaster. While City staff will coordinate and facilitate the program, the goal is to keep City resources to a minimum and to utilize the skills and resources of existing organizations already in the community. Trainers would be recruited from various volunteer and non-volunteer organizations with skills and or interests in emergency planning and community preparedness. Existing organzations such as neighborhood planning associations, strata councils, blockwatch teams, community police offices, Red Cross, Emergency Preparedness for Industry and Commerce (EPIC), Parent's Advisory Committees, B.C. Housing Corporation, as well as City programs such as NIST and Emergency Social Services will be contacted as a means of tapping into communities. A number of these organizations have already have been already been approached and have responded positively to participating in the program.
It will teach families, individuals, students and businesses to minimize hazards, to be prepared, and to act quickly and appropriately in a major emergency. Those who an have interest in becoming more proactive, will be given information and training on how to inventory their immediate 'neighborhood' (or work or classroom environment) for skills and equipment that may be needed after a disaster; on how to establish neighborhood emergency teams to assist in light rescue, first aid, shelter and care giving. Neighborhood teams would be trained to report the status of their neighborhoods to the emergency shelters. Information would then be re-layed to the Emergency Operations Center so that support could be directed to areas of greatest need.
To be successful this program needs to be supported by extensive communications, good administration and professional materials. The Justice Institute has just issued training materials which will form the basis for the program. Staff are also researching similar programs in Washington State and in other parts of the GVRD. The first eight months of 2000 would be devoted to getting material ready to support the program - tailoring and producing training manuals and course materials, developing one-minute information spots for the City's cable program and for the web-site, developing web-site information, brochures, fact sheets etc.
This initiative represents a significant expansion of existing work which has largely concentrated on training within multi-family developments. Corporate sponsorship and partners will be sought to reduce costs wherever possible. It is anticipated that the initial set-up work during the first six to eight months of 2000 can be undertaken by staff from Fire Prevention, Communications, Park Board, and Risk and Emergency Management. Once the program is implemented it may require an administrative resource. If that is the case, the request will be brought back to Council at that time. The program would beginimplementation in the fall of 2000.
Part of the community program initiative is the Emergency Preparedness Fair which the City has held for the past two years in May at the Fire Training facility. It is an excellent means of providing information and training to the community. It includes emergency equipment, emergency kits and supplies, demonstrations of emergency response activities, training and information about preparedness, exhibits, a trade fair, and entertainment. The theme of each fair is emergency preparedness at home and work. This fair is well attended by school children and the general public. As part of the community outreach initiative, it is recommended that the fair be continued as an annual event. Corporate sponsors will be sought to reduce the cost of the fair.
Community programs will be ongoing, the goal being to reach as many people in the community as possible. An ambitious target for the program would be to see 2000 residents per year receive basic emergency preparedness training and see 50 neighborhood emergency response teams formed. Emergency response teams may range in size but are optimally about 10 people serving a 'neighborhood' of 100 to 150 people. It is estimated that annual costs of this program would be about $55,000 to $75,000, as follows:
printing preparedness brochures and training manuals; $ 15,000
developing marketing material - (posters, print ads)
and website material $35,000
safety fair $ 25,000
Printing and development costs in future years may be slightly lower as start-up work will be completed, however increased interest in the program may generate the need for a greater volume of materials and courses. In the past funding for the safety fair has come from departmental budgets - these will be reduced accordingly to cover the cost of the fair in 2000.
Emergency Supplies - City facilities and response workers
If a disaster occurs during working hours, it is important that City staff and emergency response personnel have provisions to support their needs - food, water, first aid kits, rescue supplies - so that they can respond immediately to the situation and also attend to the needs of staff and members of the public who may be in their immediate vicinity at the time of the disaster. For inside workers, containers with these supplies would be located in all City buildings, based on a recommended ratio. In addition, there is a need to provide personal kits - food, water, first aid kit, foil blanket, dust mask, light stick and whistle - in City vehicles to support workers who may be mobile at the time of the disaster, including personnel in police, fire and engineering vehicles. This practice is widespread in government agencies, and is a fundamental requirement to ensure an effective emergency response. Theproposed number of cabinets will cover all City facilities, including office buildings, works yard, libraries, community centers, and cultural centers. An intranet program will allow staff to take a virtual tour of the cabinet and become familiar with its contents. Access to the cabinets is achieved by breaking a tamper-proof shield.
The total cost to outfit all city facilities and city vehicles would be $247,000 as follows:
Large cabinets 54 @ $2500 $135,000
Small cabinets 69 @ $1000 $69,000
Personal emergency kits 1700 vehicles @ $25 $42,500
This program could be phased over several years, with initial priority given to key locations and response personnel. The costs are largely one time, though some perishable elements of the supplies will need to be evaluated for replacement every five years. However, this would not be a significant cost.
Minor Earthquake Proofing - City Buildings
Experience in earthquakes shows that furniture, movable equipment, shelving, light fixtures, computer terminals, and a variety of other non-structural equipment may move in even a minor earthquake, presenting both a life safety risk and a cost relating to delay in recovery operations. In some cases, all that is required is the use of industrial velcro to fasten down movable equipment. In other cases, equipment such as copiers, shelving or other quasi-structural elements must be fastened or cabled to walls or floors so they will maintain their position. The importance of addressing these risks has been recognized by the Provincial Government - it's new seismic mitigation program is initially concentrating on addressing these risks in provincial buildings.
It is proposed that monies be allocated to gradually secure non-structural items in City facilities over time. It is estimated that a budget of $50,000 annually would permit this minor upgrading to be done over a period of ten years.
The financial commitment represented by the initiatives outlined in this report amounts to just under $325,000 annually. It is possible these costs will be reduced through the use of partners and sponsors. In addition the Emergency Operations Centre is used from time to time for filming and any filming revenue will go to offset these costs.
The priorities identified in this report will continue the City's investment in emergency planning, at a more modest pace. The past decade saw millions of dollars invested in upgrading and establishing the City's basic response infrastructure. With that in place, the City can now concentrate on less costly initiatives. The Emergency Management Committee sees these as long-term, phased programs which will continue to gradually improve the ability of the City and the community to mitigate against, respond to, and cope with a disaster. The priorities outlined in this report represent a logical next phase of emergency planning in the City.
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The following are major Emergency Planning initiatives the City has undertaken over the past ten years.
Enhanced Fire Protection
A major seismic event or other disaster may render the City's conventional fire protection system unusable. In the Kobe earthquake, for example, the Kobe's water system suffered more than 10,000 line breaks. Firefighters were unable to battle fires because they had no effective water supply. Following the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, where San Francisco struggled with fires in the Marina district, the City reviewed methods of providing an alternative water supply for enhanced fire protection.
In 1993, the City began development of a $48 million Dedicated Fire Protection System. This system is designed to be operational following a large earthquake and will provide an alternate water supply for firefighting following a disaster. The system consists of two pump stations and a salt water distribution system throughout the downtown peninsula, Kitsilano and Fairview slopes. The entire system is scheduled for completion in 2004.
In 1991 Vancouver, along with the Vancouver Port and the municipalities of Burnaby, North Vancouver District and City, and Port Moody formed a consortium and together acquired five fast-response firefighting vessels. Two are operated by Vancouver but mutual aid arrangements effectively mean that all five vessels cover the 26 miles of waterfront in the port of Vancouver. The five fireboats have a capacity equivalent to 10 conventional land pumper trucks. In addition a drafting station on the Fraser River at Gladstone Park will allow fire pumper trucks to draw water directly from the river. Portable floating pumps that can be dropped into a river, or a lake, are also being investigated as these have the potential to supply a pumper truck with water from any source such as the Fraser River, the ocean, Lost Lagoon or Trout Lake.
Emergency Potable Water Supplies
To enhance the availability of water supplies for drinking the Engineering Department, in conjunction with Parks and Recreation, has developed access to underground supplies at both Langara and McCleery Golf Courses. Wells have been established to provide water for irrigating the courses through the summer and these wells can be used to provide drinking water in an emergency. The Engineering Department is also working with Oakridge Mall to access their well to provide potable water. The water quality from these wells is tested regularly to ensure the on-going safety of the supply.
In case of a large scale emergency, such as a big earthquake, water from these wells can be transported to various emergency shelters via City street flusher trucks. Plumbing has been developed to allow the truck to act as a water supply to fill individual buckets or containers.
The City of Vancouver is responsible for all bridges within the City boundaries. Bridges that cross between municipalities along a major highway, such as Second Narrows Bridge on Highway 1, are the responsibility of the Provincial Ministry of Transportation and Highways. Bridges that cross municipal boundaries along major roads or minor highways, such as the Knight Street Bridge, are the responsibility of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. Bridges that cross into the Vancouver Port Authority, such as the McGill Street Overpass, are the responsibility of the Port of Vancouver.
Altogether the City of Vancouver is responsible for 26 crossing structures, which includes bridges, pedestrian overpasses and viaducts. Most of these are smaller structures and, in the event of earthquake damage, could be circumvented. The main `lifeline' bridges in the City which connect residents and commuters to the downtown peninsula and other parts of Vancouver are the Burrard Bridge, Granville Bridge, First Avenue Viaduct, Cambie Bridge, and Grandview Cut bridges. The Cambie and Grandview Cut bridges are relatively new and would be expected to perform well in an earthquake.
The City has spent approximately $9 million on seismic upgrade of major bridges. The Granville Bridge and the First Avenue Viaduct have been completed; work on the Burrard Bridge main span is complete and it is anticipated that the remaining approach spans will be addressed in the near future.
Emergency Operations Center
In 1998 the City completed development of a purpose-built, post-disaster Emergency Operations Center - probably one of the most technologically sophisticated operations centres in North America. Located on the main floor of the E-Comm building at 3301 East Pender Street (Pender and Rupert Streets), it takes advantage of the unique post-disaster features and technology of the E-Comm facility.
In an emergency, the City's Emergency Operations Centre will be staffed by City personnel representing various City departments as well as by trained volunteers. In the immediate response phase of a major disaster the Emergency Operations Centre will centralize information; coordinate emergency response across City departments and with other agencies; identify critical needs and establish response priorities; and provide accurate timely information to the public concerning the emergency or disaster.
The 19,000 square foot centre cost about $10.4 million, including land and communications systems (which cost about $3.5 million). Of this amount, $6.6 million was provided by the Federal and Provincial governments through the B.C. infrastructure grant program. By co-locating this facility with other agencies, the City was able to achieve very high capability at much lower cost than if it had built a stand-alone facility.
Urban Search and Rescue
From 1995 to 1998 the City developed an Urban Search and Rescue team - the only one in Canada. Urban search and rescue involves the location, extrication, and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped under collapsed structures.
Experience over the past fifteen years in earthquakes, bombings, collapses, and other catastrophes has added to the cumulative medical understanding of crush injuries and has prompted the development of highly specialized teams and extrication equipment. Increasingly it is recognized that urban search and rescue expertise is a critical component of any emergency response program.
It cost about $850,000 to develop the team. Financial support was received from the Federal-Provincial Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) in the form of grants totaling $420,000, which were matched by City of Vancouver funding.
The Vancouver team is modeled on the U.S. teams. It has 72 volunteer members - all bringing years of current, relevant training and experience from various occupational and professional backgrounds. It includes search dog handlers, hazardous materials specialists, structural engineers, confined space technicians, and emergency physicians. On joining the team, members' existing skills and knowledge are augmented with hundreds of training hours in techniques like emergency shoring, crush injury treatment, and searching with the use of acoustic listening devices and remote cameras. The team is supported by 32,000 pounds of specialized equipment. It includes medical supplies and the most sophisticated urban search and rescue equipment available including lightweight rapid shoring equipment, heavy lift air bags, confined space stretchers, and hydraulic concrete-cutting chain saws. The equipment is stored and transported in three trailers.
Today there are about 45 specialized Urban Search and Rescue teams throughout the world, 24 in the United States, and one in Canada (the Vancouver Urban Search and Rescue Team).
The Vancouver team was developed by the City of Vancouver for its use and as a Provincial and Federal resource. Vancouver would deploy the team to incidents within Vancouver; the Provincial Emergency Program would deploy the team to incidents elsewhere in the Province (and to neighboring states and provinces); the Federal government would deploy the teamoutside those areas, both nationally and internationally. In a major disaster, teams from the United States and other parts of the world would come to our aid as part of reciprocal aid understandings.The Vancouver team can be deployed and function 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Post Disaster Dispatch Facility and Radio System
Through its initiation of the E-Comm project in 1995 the City of Vancouver was a leader in the development of a post-disaster 9-1-1 dispatch center and radio system for emergency services. Today the dispatch center and radio system are owned and operated by E-Comm, a special purpose corporation comprising public agency shareholders. As a shareholder in E-Comm, the City of Vancouver ensures that its police, fire and engineering personnel have reliable communications systems which will function, even after a major disaster. 9-1-1 calls will continue to be answered and emergency services will be dispatched to the areas of need.
Emergency Social Services
In a major earthquake it is likely that residents would be displaced from their homes. In the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, for example, 41% of the population was left homeless. In Taiwan 33% were left homeless following that quake.
The Vancouver Emergency Social Services program is a volunteer based program, developed by the Park Board to establish and manage emergency shelters and provide food, clothing, lodging, first aid, counseling and registration and inquiry services to victims of a disaster.
Emergency Social Services is largely made up of volunteers and volunteer organizations:
· Vancouver Park Board provides overall program management, including facilities management and food services for victims and disaster response personnel.
· Red Cross handles registration of victims and sets up a central registry for inquiries from family and friends.
· The Salvation Army provides trains volunteers to carry out a reception role at emergency shelters or reception centers.
· St. John Ambulance provides first aid services to disaster victims.
·Vancouver School Board provides emergency services to the student population and acts as a back up resource for reception center facilities.
· City of Vancouver Tenant Assistance Program assists disaster victims in finding alternate housing.
· Vancouver Police Victim Services provides support and direction victims at the scene of a disaster or emergency.
· Greater Vancouver Mental Health coordinates counseling for disaster response staff and volunteers, and provides support to Mental Health clients in reception centers.
· Information Services Vancouver provides an information and referral service for those requiring assistance.
· The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides emergency pet services.
The Emergency Social Service program would initially establish emergency shelters or reception centers in the City's 26 community centers, located throughout the City. Public schools and other facilities would also be used, if needed. If the facilities themselves were damaged and not useable, the open spaces surrounding them would be used to provide shelter, using tents and mobile food services. The City is currently undertaking an evaluation of potential emergency shelters to assess seismic and other requirements.
Over the past ten years the City has developed a core emergency social services program, creating partnerships with suppliers, training volunteers, developing operational protocols for shelters, and conducting emergency exercises to test their response capability. While more work remains to be done, the current Emergency Social Services program represents a significant achievement and capability in the City.
Backup Communications: Amateur Radio
Amateur radio plays an important role in disaster communications and is a critical piece of any emergency planning program. In the 1998 Quebec ice storms, for example, hundreds of Amateur Radio operators provided the only communication link between many rural areas and the outside world. They augmented regular emergency services' communications in cities and towns where telephone service had been severed.
The technological advancements in Amateur Radio means that it is highly reliable, and has the capability to transmit large amounts of information quickly. Providing this type of assistance in times of emergency has generated growing public interest in the hobby, thereby enhancing its long-term survival.
In recognition of the critical role that Amateur Radio plays in disaster communications, theCity of Vancouver set out to formally develop an Amateur Radio component as part of its Emergency Operations Centre. In 1997 an independent 3-month study was carried out to assess the capability and accessibility of amateur radio in the City. As a result of this study a non-profit society, Vancouver Emergency Community Telecommunications Organization (VECTOR), was created to formalize and coordinate Amateur Radio disaster communications.
In an emergency Amateur Radio operators will convey important emergency information to and from emergency shelters, provide information on persons seeking missing family members through the Red Cross (usually via packet radio - similar to wireless e-mail), transmit damage reports from the field to emergency responders, provide back-up communications to and from the Emergency Operations Centre, and even provide live television coverage if necessary.
The development of a formal amateur radio organization dedicated to the provision of disaster communications is an important enhancement to the City's overall emergency plan.
Coordination With External Organizations
The City's ability to respond to an emergency requires effective coordination, not only within City departments, but with external agencies such as utilities and hospitals as well as with the Provincial government. Over the past ten years two major initiatives have vastly improved the City's ability to coordinate with external organizations.
The City is a member of the Regional Emergency Coordination Center which is co-located adjacent to the City's Emergency Operations Center in the E-Comm facility. In an emergency the Regional Emergency Coordination Center brings together other municipalities, utilities, hospitals, emergency services, transportation agencies, and the Provincial Emergency Program so that they can centralize and share information and coordinate aid and response.
The City also co-chairs the Joint Emergency Liaison Committee (the Annual Report of the JELC is the subject of a companion report), which coordinates emergency planning initiatives across municipalities and between municipalities and the Provincial government.
To ensure staff are familiar with would be expected of them in a major emergency the City conducts regular emergency exercises. In 1999, for example, the City activated the Emergency Operations Centre for three major exercises - staff were given the opportunity to use the systems, to respond to hypothetical emergencies, to coordinate with otheragencies, to test and evaluate emergency plans and procedures, and to make changes which will improve our ability to respond effectively. In conjunction with the activities at the Emergency Operations Centre, field staff and volunteers also tested their response capability. The Emergency Social Services program activated an emergency shelter and practiced providing services and support to 'victims'; Engineering field staff simulated responses to infrastructure failures and other issues. These exercises were supplemented with on-site tabletop exercises and workshops with various Emergency Operations Centre components to ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly understood. The Emergency Social Services program conducted two simulation exercise to give staff and volunteers experience at activating emergency shelters.
In 2000 four major exercises are scheduled. On May 5th the exercise includes a unique experience for school students in Vancouver. "Operation Vesper" presents an opportunity for students to enter an essay contest in which they describe the impact of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Vancouver and describe what they would do to prepare their families. Two contestants will be chosen from each school and will assume the role of "Agent 000" for a day. They will participate in a real-time earthquake simulation at the emergency operations centre. City staff will act as mentors and guides throughout the exercise. Thirty-six Vancouver schools are participating.
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(c) 1998 City of Vancouver