When it comes to handling emergency situations—such as the wildfires, floods and heat waves experienced in 2021—it’s best to be prepared. That’s why Columbia Basin Trust is supporting 13 rural and First Nations communities in the Columbia Basin to set up locations where people can gather during emergencies and disasters.
During an emergency, it may be unsafe for people to remain in their homes. The Trust’s new Community Readiness Program is providing over $1.08 million to help communities create gathering spaces, with access to necessities like power, filtered air, air conditioning, emergency equipment and emergency supplies.
“Many rural and First Nations communities are taking action to adequately equip and prepare themselves during emergencies, and this new program helps them get ready for these challenging events,” said Will Nixon, Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits, Columbia Basin Trust. “With the changing climate, events like wildfires, floods and heat waves are becoming all too prevalent. Basin residents have consistently told us how important it is to become resilient to climate change, which is why we’ve introduced a program like this and made climate resilience a priority.”
The Trust is also integrating climate resilience throughout its work. For example, it supports wildfire risk reduction through the Crown Land Wildfire Risk Reduction Program and helps communities prepare for, respond to and adapt to challenges associated with the changing environment through the Climate Resilience Program. Learn more at ourtrust.org/priorities.
During an emergency, the people of Grasmere and area may need access to water, food, cots and medical equipment, plus reliable power. To provide these things, the Triangle Women’s Institute is purchasing a generator and storage unit containing emergency supplies and equipment for Pioneer Hall.
“Due to the increase in wildfires, excessive heat and power outages, the South Country community needs a place where they can go for relief and supplies during an emergency,” said Toni Cisco, Secretary. “Having Pioneer Hall set up with emergency preparedness equipment and supplies will allow residents a place to go for help. The peace of mind these resources will bring to the community during emergency situations is invaluable.”
In case of wildfires, heat waves or other emergencies, the Edgewater Community Hall will be able to serve as an area of refuge. To increase its readiness, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is upgrading the heating, cooling and air filtration system that can operate during emergencies.
“Most homes in the region are not air conditioned and people are vulnerable to extreme heat and smoke from wildfires. By enhancing the functionality of the main community gathering facility, the community will become more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Gerry Wilkie, Director, RDEK Electoral Area G. “The RDEK and Edgewater Recreation Society are grateful to the Trust for funding this project and supporting the region in climate change resilience.”
Residents of Edgewood need a secure location to shelter in during emergencies like power outages, wildfires and extreme heat. To provide it, the Royal Canadian Legion No. 203 Edgewood is adding a generator and a heating, ventilation, cooling and air filtration system to the Edgewood Community Hall.
“The safety and health of residents became a major concern during the wildfire season of 2020, when we had wildfires at our perimeter,” said Bill Dummett, President. “Situations like this and extreme heat create hardships and unsafe conditions for people in their homes. These additions to the hall will allow them a safe, cooled place to go where the air has been purified.”
Yaq̓it ʔa∙knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation
To ensure more reliable power, water and communications during emergencies, Yaq̓it ʔa∙knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation is purchasing two generators and telecommunications equipment, along with first aid equipment and storage containers for emergency supplies.
“Emergency preparedness has always been a top priority for the ʔakanuxunik̓/ʔaqⱡsmaknik,” said Nasu?kin Heidi Gravelle. “Due to the most recent emergency events, including wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, we have identified some of the barriers that keep us from executing emergency planning. This grant provides us with some of the necessary equipment that will allow us to act quickly in real time to emergencies in times of crisis. This will assist in the community safety and security going forward.”
Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org.