The RDEK approved a grant application for $25,000 that will be earmarked for upgrades to their Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) during a monthly board meeting on Friday in Cranbrook.
The grant, sourced from the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, can be used for equipment to help the EOC improve information technology, communications systems and generators. Other elements eligible include training and exercises and increasing capacity for public emergency communications systems or programs.
Sanford Brown, the RDEK Building and Protective Services Manager, said the funding is welcome after a busy wildfire season last summer, and while operations ran smoothly, the planned upgrades can help for future emergencies.
“The program, as its set up, functioned well,” said Brown, “but there were a few that were noted there on the memo, a few things that could be improved. A lot of that is with the new ways to share information, display information. It’s very expensive so it can be hard to keep up a centre that you don’t use a lot, it doesn’t get activated a lot so it’s hard to spend the money to activate it.”
Some of the equipment targeted for the grant funding was identified following a report from an independent consultant that was conducted after the wildfire season.
That report noted that the EOC had old computers, needed noise reduction between certain sections and inadequate display equipment to display situational awareness. Also, other issues identified included broke chairs, inadequate conference call equipment and that the mapping department had to use off-site equipment.
The EOC, a building across the from the courthouse on 11th Ave, housed up to 30 people a day during peak operations in the fall.
“It was really large activation, we really tested all of our systems, we tested all of our spaces,” said Brown. “So it’s when you test it like that really hard that you can really see if there’s any where you can improve on. Depending on the year, sometimes we’ll only have two or three staff in there to do a small response, a little flood response, maybe a creek is overwhelming.”
The last time the centre was activated was during the Fernie Memorial Arena crisis, where three people tragically died after a suspected ammonia leak.