Rotary program keeps communities prepared in the event of an emergency

Club places disaster aid kits throughout region

Sooke Fire Rescue deputy chief Matt Barney, left, Jeri Grant with Juan de Fuca Emergency Support Services, and Sooke Rotary Club members Moe Samman, John Toplniski and Neil Flynn in front of one of the Project Prepare containers with emergency supplies. (Sam Purdy photo)

Rick Stiebel | Sooke News Mirror

The community is better prepared, thanks to an initiative by the Rotary Club of Sooke.

The concept for Project Prepare arose from concerns about how the community would handle disruptions to services in the event of a disaster, said John Topolniski, the Sooke Rotary member who spearheaded the project.

“As a coastal community, we need to be proactive when a tsunami or earthquake hits,” said Topolniski, who’s been with the Rotary Club of Sooke for 10 years. “Events like that will have a huge impact on a coastal community like ours, so being prepared to look after ourselves is key.”

After discussions with Sooke Fire Rescue and Juan de Fuca Emergency Support Services, the Rotary Club of Sooke earmarked funding to place containers with disaster aid kits throughout the community. Each container has kits providing shelter for 10 people, as well as items needed to cook meals and sustain life for a few days until help arrives.

“We left it up to ESS and the fire department to decide where the containers would be placed,” Topolnski said.

Rotary members worked with Juan de Fuca Emergency Support Services and Sooke Fire Rescue to install the containers in secure, accessible locations. Thirteen containers have been set up so far. The first was placed at Edward Milne Community School, with another six at the main fire hall, four in East Sooke, two at fire hall No. 2 and one in Jordan River.

Project Prepare was initially funded by a $3,500 grant from the Rotary Club of Sooke, an amount matched by Rotary District 5020 through a district community grant, said Sam Purdy, who’s been with the Sooke Rotary Club for 3½ years.

“It was John’s idea,” Purdy said. “We placed one at the school and thought maybe make this a bigger project to make sure the community is better prepared.”

The plan is to continue the project until there’s a sufficient stock of kits on hand throughout the community, Purdy said. “We’re going to go as far as the fundraising takes us,” Topolniski added.

A major fundraising initiative, Rotary Auction Dinner 2020 scheduled for April 18 has been postponed because of the ongoing situation resulting from COVID-19. It has been tentatively rescheduled for Oct. 31.

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