Disaster response team looking to grow

Volunteers needed for all areas of Saanich Emergency Program

Seven-year volunteer Dom Kapac

From his seat in Saanich’s radio control room, deputy emergency radio co-ordinator Dom Kapac can quickly bounce a radio call off the district’s repeater on top of Mount Douglas as far as Duncan.

The repeater is a key tool for the Saanich Emergency Program, as it allows the amateur radio network to reach as far as Duncan.

“It runs on batteries which is pretty important,” says Kapac, who works across the street in IT security for B.C. Assessment at Uptown. “In a time of disaster we have to anticipate most communications, Internet, will go down.”

Kapac started volunteering with the Emergency Radio Communications team in 2008, when he was recruited by a fellow amateur radio operator. He’s since become a key figure in Saanich’s disaster response plans. But more volunteers are needed, as the average life is about two to three years, said Saanich Fire’s emergency program officer, Capt. Brock Henson.

On Sept. 10, the Saanich Emergency Program is hosting a volunteer information session, and are seeking to add to the 111-strong team of volunteers in all three areas: ground search and rescue, emergency social services and radio communications.

“One volunteer has been there 31 years. We have volunteers who’ve been with us for a long time but we are always recruiting and, to be blunt, we can’t have too many volunteers, especially in emergency social services,” Henson said.

In 2010 Henson twice visited Christchurch, New Zealand, to learn and then work in the aftermath of that region’s two debilitating earthquakes. It struck him how similar Christchurch’s infrastructure is to Greater Victoria.

“No matter how much you prepare, a disaster is still a disaster. We can’t be ready for everything, we do the best with the resources we have,” Henson said.

So far there’s been four callouts for Saanich’s emergency social services in 2015, helping residents or families who were displaced by fire.

In general, ESS provides assistance to those displaced by major emergency (house fire) by providing temporary food and lodging. They’re also trained to work in SEP’s reception centres (which are at recreation centres) during a large emergency.

Radio operators are trained to set up and connect with disaster call centres at the local rec centres as well as deployed search and rescue teams.

There are enough volunteer opportunities to fit just about anyone as long as they’re 19 or older, Henson said.

The Sept. 10 volunteer info session is at Gordon Head Rec Centre at 7 p.m. for emergency social services and radio communications. For questions or to RSVP call  250-475-7140, or email sep@saanich.ca.





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