Message from the Board Chair

Dec 09, 2021
Affected Communities: 
All Areas

Atmospheric River. If you weren’t familiar with this term prior to November, 2021, you no doubt know of it now.

In the SLRD, multiple impacts from these moisture-laden storms resulted in a State of Local Emergency being declared and multiple evacuation orders and alerts. Electoral Area C has been particularly impacted.

Please take time to reflect on our fellow residents, neighbours and friends who have been directly impacted by being placed on evacuation order as a result of these storms.  A knock on the door, potentially late at night, finding an RCMP, Fire or other responder at your door with the message that you need to leave home immediately, is shocking.  Then there is returning home to a changed landscape, a changed sense of safety; some residents are still waiting for the Order to be lifted so that they can return home. While the SLRD does its best to keep residents informed, there will never be enough information, or soon enough, when you are wondering what is happening to your home and what the future holds. Our hearts go out to everyone affected, and we continue to work for the continued safety of all residents.

The SLRD has two emergency management staff. All other staff in our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) take on emergency management roles that are in addition to their ‘day jobs’. The ‘day job’ responsibilities do not go away; the SLRD operates on lean staff numbers, and the SLRD EOC has been active for close to 100 days in 2021. EOC work goes late into the night (or early morning) and is often seven days a week, as emergencies take no breaks. The SLRD is responsible for emergency management across four electoral areas, some 25 full time communities, spread out over 16,000 square kilometres, and in a very active hazard zone where multiple communities can be impacted at once, as we have seen in this event. Our EOC team takes on the work with dedication and care for the communities affected, and an absolute commitment to the work.

We rely on the dedication and commitment of many external agencies, stakeholders and partners in emergency management. These are numerous, but a few notable ones from this response are: the Pemberton RCMP, Pemberton Fire Rescue Service and the Birken Volunteer Fire Department for evacuation operations, Tsal’alh staff and community members for actions taken to respond to debris flow / flood events in the Seton Portage area, Emergency Management BC for support when we had questions at 3:00 a.m., the Emergency Support Services / Red Cross volunteer team in Whistler for looking after evacuated residents who needed accommodation and other emergency supports, and the Pemberton Valley Dyking District, whose flood response actions included staff being waist-deep in freezing water to clear culverts and lower flood risk.

To everyone, no matter their role, who works alongside us in public safety and emergency response, we are so thankful to have you on our team.

Jen Ford
Chair, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District

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