When disaster strikes, being prepared is the most important key for response.
So says a group of students at Royal Roads University who are helping the City of Colwood determine just how prepared it is for a major emergency.
The master of arts in disaster and emergency management group is made up of mature students from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide breadth of experience in fields such as military, policing and emergency management.
The group utilizes the Making Cities Resilient campaign, a mandate of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Communities from around the world are taking part in the programme. Those which do exceptionally well, including Saanich and Oak Bay, are declared “role model” cities.
“That’s the key, community-based research. We drew on as many sources as possible,” said Jim Forrest, group member. “We wanted to be thorough, we wanted to be objective and we wanted to conform with accepted standards of research.”
The study looks at 10 areas: organization and co-ordination; budget; up-to-date data; infrastructure; the safety of schools and health facilities; building regulations and land use; education and training; protected ecosystems and natural buffers; early warning systems; and reconstruction plans.
Out of the 10 areas, the group found Colwood to be doing an above-average job in seven, namely in the areas of organization, budget and infrastructure.
In two areas the group found the city could use some improvements. The safety of schools and health care facilities fall short of above-average preparedness and plans for reconstruction following an emergency also could be improved.
The lowest ranked area for the city was related to disaster risk assessment. While achievements have been made, the group explained they were incomplete and more work is required to formalize information.
Even with the shortcomings, Colwood did well enough in the assessment to warrant a recommendation for the Role Model status.
“You have a wonderful community, which great potential. We congratulate you on your nomination,” said Jason Loy, team lead, to city officials. “You should be very proud of your current level of resiliency and we look forward to seeing what you accomplish next.”
One initiative the group declared a highlight for the city is Solar Colwood, which they said encourages self-sufficiency and helps take the strain off local infrastructure.
In terms of infrastructure, one facility of note is the pumping station on the Coburg Penninsula, which the team identified as high-risk due to erosion. The city is aware of the issue and have started steps to address it, but the team stressed the process needs to be ongoing.
Mayor Carol Hamilton said the assessment has been helpful for the city and she fully expects to see some of the recommendations from the study end up before council.
“Stuff happens. We don’t have to go far back to that big windstorm we had,” Hamilton said. “That devastated the local community and ground us to a halt. … It is important to have those plans.”