Community Papers

The human side of disaster relief

When a major earthquake strikes this region — the experts say it’s not a question of if — we assume the first responders (fire, police, ambulance) will help, but Oceanside Emergency Support Services will also be there, if they have enough volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers — we get a regular turnover,” said ESS member Tom Williams.

After the initial shock of any major disaster, it is the ESS team that coordinates the human side of disaster relief in the initial hours and days.

About 20 members work closely with local governments and other emergency services, covering all of District 69.

Williams said he’d really like to have more like 75 people. In a large regional incident like an earthquake, they would set up multiple reception centres with eight or 10 volunteers at each, which would quickly overwhelm their members if it lasted longer than a single shift.

Along with short term disaster relief they help plan and provide other essential needs like food, lodging, clothing, emotional support and help finding loved ones.

Throughout the year, volunteers also inform the public about the program, identify and plan for reception centres, recruit and train other volunteers and work on emergency plans.

No specific skills are required, but experience in things like volunteer management, interviewing and second languages would be particularly useful, Williams said.

ESS volunteers have access to valuable training and receive Workers’ Compensation Board and liability insurance coverage while on assignment.

Oceanside Emergency Social Services is hosting public meetings Tuesday, Dec. 4 (today) to show people what they do and encourage people to join.

The meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Parksville fire hall and repeated at 7 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach hall to give people options for different times.


For more contact Williams at or 250-954-3411.



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