QUESNEL, B.C. - Quesnel’s Emergency Social Services team went through an important training exercise last weekend with 17 members taking the Reception Centre Operations course.
The team is a volunteer-based organization that provides services to evacuees in the event of an emergency. The course ran Friday evening and Saturday morning at the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre, providing fundamental information and hands-on training to ESS volunteers.
Jeff Norburn, the new ESS director who took over from Eric Kesteloot this fall, said the training was important in light of recent world events.
“When you see tragedies happen in other communities, it reminds you of how important it is for a community to be prepared for a disaster,” said Norburn. “If a natural disaster or emergency situation arises, the community needs to come together and support those affected. Our volunteer team is ready to accept that challenge.”
Coun. Sushil Thapar is the City Council liaison for ESS. He said the team is a valuable community resource.
“Having a team of dedicated individuals to help those in need is something Quesnel can be proud of,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have people who care this much about others.”
The ESS team has responded to a number of incidents this year. On Jan. 25, two families were evacuated from Hixon to Quesnel due to a risk of flooding. In late April, residents of six units of a residential apartment complex in Johnson Subdivision were evacuated due to a risk of land slippage. ESS volunteers responded and provided those affected with accommodation and meals until they were able to make other arrangements.
“In each case the team rose to the challenge,” said Deputy ESS Director Ron Potter. “Training exercises such as last weekend’s ensure that when the real thing happens, we’ll be ready for it.”
The ESS team is always looking for volunteers interested in helping fellow citizens during a disaster. In the event that an emergency requires an evacuation, ESS volunteers set up an emergency reception centre where evacuees can register and have their immediate food, clothing, and lodging needs met for up to 72 hours following the event. The Arts and Recreation Centre acts as the primary reception centre when necessary.
Volunteers of all ages and abilities are needed for a wide range of roles both before and during an emergency, including assisting with registration and referrals, and providing administrative services, pet services, emotional support and food services to evacuees.
Quesnel ESS has more than 50 active members on its team. Training opportunities are provided for volunteers, usually twice a year. Regular meetings are held five times a year. Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Quesnel ESS team is invited to contact Jeff Norburn at 992-8206.