File photo During emergency situations. communicating information on the location of emergency reception centres for evacuees is important.

Regional District of Nanaimo debates ERC signage

Emergency centres difficult to locate, say staff

The Regional District of Nanaimo has agreements in place for pre-designated emergency reception centres in eight locations throughout the area.

Now, it’s exploring ways to make sure residents can find them.

Staff reported during the Electoral Areas Services Committee on Feb. 13 that there has been a concern about the difficulty of locating the centres during emergencies. Hi-visibility sandwich board signs are often placed strategically in the community to guide evacuees or people seeking help and assistance. Bright yellow banner signs are also hung on the exterior of the buildings to identify each facility as an ERC, Jon Wilson, manager of emergency services, said in his report to the board.

The ERCs are located at the Gabriola Island Rollo Seniors Centre, Cedar Community Hall, Cranberry Hall, Nanoose Place, Lighthouse Community Centre, Bowser legion, Gabriola Island Community Hall and Coombs Fairgrounds. They are transformed into emergency reception centres during emergency situations.

The RDN board directed staff to prepare a report regarding signage at ERC. It was suggested that permanent signage be install at ERCs but staff advised against it, as not all centres would be active during emergencies and permanent signage may cause unecessary confusion.

“It will raise local public awareness and expectations that that particular facility will be active in the event of a local emergency,” said Wilson, who added that an ERC may not be active because of the expected volume of people displaced, security issues or an emergency incident too close to the emergency centre.

As practiced by most emergency programs in the province, information on where to go is often provided to evacuees by first responders at the scene.

In larger evacuations, the location of emergency reception centres and information go through the emergency operations centre, which feeds the information to local media and through social media.

At this time, the RDN has no plans to take action on this issue.

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