In the event of an actual emergency…
Members of Penticton Search and Rescue (PENSAR) will be knocking on doors the evening of Feb. 24 as part of an evacuation exercise somewhere within the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) boundaries in preparation for future emergencies.
Although the exact location was not available, PENSAR president and senior search manager Dale Jorgensen advised that the public involved will be contacted ahead of time.
SAR crews will be using a new computer app developed by the RDOS that allows information from search and rescue technicians to be communicated directly to the Emergency Operations Centre in real time.
The app also enables them to access maps of the exact locations where the evacuation alerts and notices will be required which, in the past, they would have had to wait for before responding.
“This way we can zero in on a map in the RDOS area and it will show us the size of the properties and their addresses,” said Jorgensen. “We can just tap on each address and it will say that we have completed what we are doing and the people are notified or there was nobody home and as long as we have cell service it goes back to the RDOS and they can see exactly where we are and what has been accomplished in the problem areas.”
They can, also in real time, alert the control centre about issues like animals that need to be removed or a language barrier.
In the event of a situation such as a wildfire, the operations centre can also advise crews in the field if conditions change and expanded areas of evacuation are necessary.
While the new service does require cell phone service, to bolster the existing range, PENSAR has its own repeater on Apex Mountain which covers Manning Park to Kelowna.
They also have a tool called InReach which can access low-level satellites and are also now testing a satellite telephone for use in region where service is poor.
“I think a lot of people have prepared (to leave on short notice) but I think an awful lot haven’t,” said Jorgensen. “So it’s just a good thing for people to start thinking about this should the situation arise.
“You always hope for a good season (fires, floods) but you just never know what’s going to happen.”