Council confirms Houston’s participation in ESS agreement

Regional emergency support service model nearly finalized

If a regional emergency support service (ESS) model is implemented, Houston will be responsible for providing a reception centre and group lodging facility from which ESS volunteers can provide service. (B.C. government photo)

Houston council has confirmed the district’s intended participation in implementing a regional emergency support service (ESS) model.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has been working with member municipalities to develop an agreement to establish joint ESS teams that are part of a larger regional structure. Volunteer ESS personnel provide shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on when disaster forces people out of their homes.

According to Jason Llewellyn, the RDBN’s director of planning, the challenge has been to create a regional model that works for each municipality and the regional district given their “ESS-related challenges and limited resources.”

Currently, the RDBN relies upon ESS teams to provide services to the rural areas; however, not all areas have enough ESS members to assist the public in the event of an emergency. The District of Houston only has two ESS personnel – one of which is the ESS director, who’s also the district’s manager of leisure services.

READ MORE: Houston aims to improve emergency response

As part of the draft agreement proposed by the RDBN, Houston would be responsible for the recruitment and management of ESS volunteers, administrative duties, and would have to provide a reception centre and group lodging facility from which ESS volunteers can provide service. Municipal ESS directors would report to the RDBN while and ensuring that all volunteers comply with policy and standards of conduct.

Meanwhile the RDBN would coordinate ESS training courses, cover volunteer training costs, provide support and mentorship to ESS directors, and maintain the regional strategy.

There would also be shared responsibilities between municipalities and the RDBN, including the development of a memorandum of understanding for the operation of a joint emergency operations centre, and ensuring volunteers are offered proper debriefing and support following an emergency response.

Although the draft agreement has received preliminary support from the RDBN board, it still hasn’t been approved.

According to Melany de Weerdt, the RDBN’s chief administrative officer, the RDBN is still awaiting responses from some of the member municipalities. Letters were issued to these municipalities in October for formal consideration and to confirm their intended participation.

“Once we have received all of the municipal letters our staff will bring a report to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako board summarizing the municipal responses,” de Weerdt told Houston Today last month.

“We anticipate asking the RDBN board for authorization to execute the formal agreements implementing the regional ESS model early in 2019,” she added.

READ MORE: Emergency response strategy moves forward



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