The Regional District Central Okanagan (RDCO) board has heard that local hazards, and their trajectory with climate change, highlight a need for new approaches in emergency management.
Disaster and Emergency Management consulting firm Sundog Solutions provided the RDCO with an update on Phase 1 of the regional evacuation route planning framework at its April 14 meeting. Phase 1 looked at existing plants, hazard assessment mapping for wildfires, floods, terrain stability, and areas of interest within the region most at risk. Several communities along Westside Road, the Trepanier, and Paradise Valley areas along Highway 97-C, Joe Riche, Ellison, and McCulloch Lake were identified as priorities during Phase 1.
“Consideration when looking at these areas was given to access and egress to the community or the development proximity to identified hazards throughout the region, population density, historical events in the presence of single points of failure, or critical infrastructure,” said Amanda Newell, primary consultant at Sundog Solutions.
Newell’s presentation also outlined six themes categorizing concerns, priorities, and future planning. They are plans and procedures, access, egress and traffic management, communication, public information, resources and training and exercising.
“From these themes, we developed recommendations focused on continuing to foster a regional and collaborative approach to evacuation planning as well as strengthening processes and communication with stakeholders,” added Newell. “We developed 28 recommendations from those themes with most of the recommendations relating to plans and procedures, access to egress challenges, communication, and public information.”
The recommendations focused on identifying gaps and challenges, with actions that can be taken to address each of those, she said. Newell pointed out that as the RDCO evolves, so will the evacuation route framework and subsequent plans which will need to be regularly reviewed and adopted.
“This framework really acts as the foundation for continuous planning efforts rather than a final, rigid solution,” said Newell. “From this process, we’ve been able to strengthen inter-agency communication and build a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities in order to foster a collaborative approach to future responses. We were also able to gather valuable insight and perspective from West Bank, First Nation, Okanagan, Indian Band, and provincial entities to help inform some of these recommendations.”
The report noted short-term next steps include prioritizing recommendations, planning workshops, developing operational evacuation plans for at-risk areas, and running a functional evacuation exercise with regional and provincial partners.