The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is seeking public input to develop an evacuation plan for the Alberni Valley.
The ACRD, along with its partners Tseshaht First Nation, Hupacasath First Nation and the City of Port Alberni, received a grant from UBCM earlier this year to create an escape route plan for the Valley of Alberni.
Development of the evacuation plan is already underway, starting with an online survey for neighborhood residents.
“We want public engagement because we want to know what people are up against,” said Heather Zenner, Protective Services Manager for ACRD. “Do they know what to take?” Where can I get information? If people don’t have a vehicle, that’s a barrier.
The evacuation route plan will take into account all hazards, including tsunamis, forest fires, floods, dam failures and chemical spills. It will identify the main and alternative escape routes and the capacity of these routes. The plan will also take into account assembly points, transportation methods for evacuees, resources needed for an effective evacuation, vulnerable population considerations, choke points and key locations.
The serious risk of a forest fire this summer underscored the need for a formal evacuation plan, Zenner said.
“In the summer, when forest fires were happening indoors, the focus was on evacuations,” Zenner said. “I think the danger has always been there, but it has led the public to believe that wildfires could impact our community.”
Because Port Alberni is located in a valley, there are few ways in and out of the community.
“In addition, we are surrounded by forests, so we are definitely in danger,” added Zenner.
Earlier in September, ACRD participated in a forest fire training exercise with representatives from various community organizations including BC Ambulance Services, SPCA, Alberni Valley Rescue Squad, BC Transit and the Local First Nations.
ACRD received funding for this fiscal year through a Fire Smart grant and engaged Calian Ltd. as a consultant. Calian will provide a report with recommendations to the ACRD.
“We envisioned a wildfire scenario, where the wildfire is parked between Tseshaht Market and Bell Road on Highway 4,” Zenner said. “The structures have been impacted. We discuss the role of each organization in what they do.
In this wildfire scenario, Zenner said, the blaze takes place in the summer when hotels are full.
“We are looking at where the evacuees will go and what services we can provide them,” she said. “If the highway is closed, what does that mean for the west coast? “
Calian Ltd. will also help ACRD develop its official evacuation plan by interviewing many community stakeholder groups to understand their specific evacuation needs. Currently, three public engagement sessions are planned to collect resident feedback:
– Tuesday, October 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Beaver Creek Community Hall
– Tuesday October 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Echo Center
– Thursday, October 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Sproat Lake community hall.
In the meantime, the ACRD has launched an investigation into evacuation plans for residents of the Alberni Valley. There are eight questions and the survey should take less than five minutes. It can be found online at www.letsconnectpa.ca/are-you-ready.
forest fires in British Columbia Port Alberni