RECEPTION CENTRE EXERCISE: SSI EMERGENCY SOCIAL SERVICES
On Saturday, May 31st, while most island residents were outside enjoying the sunshine, a dedicated group of volunteers participated in a simulated Emergency Social Services event. Pretending that a wildfire had occurred in the Musgrave area of SSI, a Reception Centre was opened in the gym at Fulford School. The main purpose was to practice response to an emergency, but so much more was achieved. Building awareness of the realities associated with emergencies, building effective and co-ordinated teams and encouraging community support were some of the unpredictable outcomes.
Community members volunteered to be evacuees. They role played a variety of possibilities. There was a displaced family, a grandmother whose grand-daughters were missing, people who had seen their homes collapse & pets gone, and injured people. Some evacuees offered to join the ranks of volunteers, and needed direction to be helpful.
The ESS participants prepared & practiced in specific areas. Receiving & supporting evacuees at the Reception Centre kept everyone busy for almost two hours. Reception, Child Care, First Aid (both physical & emotional support), Pet Care and distribution of Food & Supplies all contributed to the effective practice of providing emergency relief.
A debrief helped those in charge with future planning. Exceptional leadership was provided by the Exercise Coordinator: Larry Melious, Reception Centre Manager: Neva Hohn, Exercise Designer & Evaluator: Elizabeth Zook. Additonal key roles were held by Laurel Hanley, Michelle Sheehan, Wendy Rosier, Debbie Magnusson and Jane Barry. Other ESS Volunteers included: Doris Wlasitz, Esther O'Maley, Jackie Sommers, Ruth Bursttales, Jeanne Lyons, Wendy Charlton, Shan MacPherson, and Gloria de Rosari.
The convincing performances by evacuees, who came from the Stowell, Fulford, Isabella and Weston PODs, made the practice full of challenges, further helping create a meaningful event. Further exercises of this type are in the planning stages for other Reception Centres on Salt Spring. A hearty “Thank You” is owed to all those who participated.