In the wake of the devastating windstorm that struck that area just before Christmas, an emergency preparedness meeting will be held in Lake Cowichan on Jan. 23.
Hosted by the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, the meeting will bring together officials from numerous agencies and organizations who will form a panel that will provide information and answer questions as to what is expected of people and emergency services during events like the windstorm.
The panel will include Sybille Sanderson, the emergency coordinator for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and representatives from the Town of Lake Cowichan, BC Hydro, Shaw Cable, local fire departments, ambulance services, RCMP, community associations and the chamber of commerce, among other groups and organizations.
Katherine Worsley, a coordinator with the chamber of commerce, said a lot of people in Lake Cowichan, as well as surrounding areas like Honeymoon Bay and Youbou, were unsure as to what to do, where to go, and who was responsible for what after the storm left many areas without power and other resources for days.
Worsley said there is a regional plan in place for people to access during emergencies that is available on the CVRD’s website, but the plan doesn’t specifically deal with what people should do in Lake Cowichan and the surrounding areas.
“The chamber’s visitor centre saw a lot of people come in looking to find out what they were supposed to do, and we sent some of them to a nearby school that was open for three days for people to warm up after the storm,” she said.
“The town’s Country Grocer, which became an unofficial community hub during the crisis, saw staff come in and light up the barbecues to cook hot dogs and other food that was sold at a reasonable price, and our Co-op gas bar kept operating until it ran out of gas. It all seemed to come together, but there was a sense of panic in some cases as well.”
Overall, approximately 30,000 BC Hydro customers in the Cowichan Valley area, one of the hardest hit areas in the province during the storm, lost their power for days, some for more than a week, after wind gusts up to 120 kilometres per hour took down trees and power lines.
Worsley said that while it was great for Country Grocer to step in as a hub during the crisis, an official central point needs to be established by governing bodies so that people will know where to go to seek aid and get answers during emergency situations.
“Following a disaster, your family’s safety, health, comfort and general well being may be entirely in your hands for a long period of time,” she said.
“People are often scared and uninformed and need answers as to what to do. We’re encouraging as many people as possible to attend the meeting.”
The meeting will be held in the Upper Centennial Hall in Lake Cowichan, beginning at 6 p.m.