New Salt Spring Emergency Program team welcomed  

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The Salt Spring Island Emergency Program is following recent tradition in hosting an Emergency Fair this Saturday, May 11 as the anchor event of Emergency Preparedness Week.

While the Capital Regional District organization’s commitment to building local ability to respond to emergencies remains the same, some key aspects will be new this year. For one thing, the fair moves to a new location at the Ganges fire hall. But more significant is the changing human faces of the organization, with the retirement of longtime coordinator Elizabeth Zook and her deputy Laurel Hanley this year.

“I am proud to have served our community for the eight years that I have been involved with the Emergency Program,” said Zook. “This program with its dedicated volunteers has helped enhance the community’s capability in being disaster resilient. It is great to see that the CRD has now provided three part-time positions to support the continued growth of this program.”

Coming in to bear the standard are Brian Bogdanovich as the head emergency coordinator and Derek Capitaine and Candice Seagull as deputies. Bogdanovich told the Driftwood he is very happy to be taking up the position and to be working with his new teammates.

“I look forward to building on all the work that Elizabeth has done and engaging with the community to get ideas how we can become more prepared and more resilient,” he said. “I look forward to working with everyone to build a stronger and more educated community.”

Although Bogdanovich has been away for many years, he grew up with a brother and sister on Salt Spring and his mother has lived here for over 45 years, so he’s always considered it to be his home. Bogdanovich graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education from UBC, where he also played rugby. Following that he pursued many different careers, doing everything from set decorating on The X-Files to operating the rescue boat at Langara Fishing lodge, to a career in mining exploration.

“Most recently I spent  21 years as a member of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services where I spent five years creating an 18-hour program teaching people what to do in the event of a disaster,” Bogdanovich said.

He additionally served as logistics chief for the department’s heavy search and rescue  unit, worked as a medic during the 2010 Winter Olympics and coordinated the Grouse Grind race for the 2009 World Police and Fire Games. Aside from his service activities, Bogdanovich enjoys active pastimes such as trekking and paddling.

Bogdanovich finds a strong match in Capitaine and Seagull, who offer different experiences but equal enthusiasm for building community resilience. All three attended training in Victoria together last month and have been holding weekly meetings since then to stay coordinated in their individual work areas.

“I think a big goal for the program will be to really focus on training and really keep up to date,” Capitaine said.

In addition to overall program management, Bogdanovich will be focusing on strengthening the neighbourhood POD program. Capitaine will be in charge of the emergency operations centre while Seagull is responsible for coordinating emergency social services. Procedures in that area include helping people evacuate in emergencies, putting up emergency reception centres, and offering emotional and other supports to victims of an emergency, whether that’s large-scale or on the level of a single house fire.

Capitaine has been a member of Salt Spring Ground Search and Rescue for seven years. In addition to its regular call-outs, the volunteer organization was heavily involved in responding to last December’s historic windstorm and the aftermath. Members did door-to-door wellness checks, advised residents about water supply and helped deliver emergency medical supplies.

“It’s so great we can be called on to fill those roles,” Capitaine said. “Many of our members are trained as first responders or have the operational background.”

Seagull moved to Salt Spring around a year ago, after spending three seasons as a ranger for Alberta Parks. Before that she was taking her degree in environmental studies and spent a season fighting wildfires in Ontario.

Public education about how to prepare for a disaster will be a big focus going forward. Living on an island, residents should have enough food and water reserves for 72 hours at the very least. Experts are predicting that with climate change, more environmental effects such as the heavy wind and snow storms of the past winter can be expected.

“Awareness and education are big things we want to bring to Salt Spring to build that resilience,” Seagull noted. “When something does happen we want people to be ready and have some supplies on hand, like a grab and go bag.”

Another goal for the group is to bring more awareness to the CRD’s Public Alert Notification System (PANS) and get everyone signed up. For example, it’s not enough to have only one member of the household registered. Ideally anyone with a mobile device should be included because there’s no telling when and where a disaster might hit.

Islanders can learn all about the island’s Emergency Program during this Saturday’s fair at the fire hall, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone who is interested in getting involved should make contact with the team there, as they will be actively recruiting in all areas.

“The three of us are pretty excited,” Seagull said.

“We make a good team,” Capitaine added. “And we don’t want to carry the whole load on our shoulders. We need a strong volunteer base.”

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