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Program aims to prepare volunteers for emergencies

Ponoka FCSS hosts incident command training to help volunteers prepare for emergency preparedness.

A recent learning opportunity will assist volunteers and others to better serve those displaced during a disaster or evacuation.

Last week, there were 22 individuals who received training in the initial step of what is called the Incident Command System (ICS). The class was hosted by Ponoka Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and was open to anyone in the community, though the focus was on helping FCSS staff and volunteers.

“The hope is that the ICS 100 will help all of them better understand what is going on at an incident so the volunteers won’t be overwhelmed,” stated Shannon Boyce-Campbell, Ponoka FCSS executive director.

FCSS offices across the province have a long-standing responsibility for providing the services at any reception centres that are established when a major disaster or evacuation occurs.

“We are being relied upon more often now and the number of situations increase,” she said.

“Myself and another area FCSS member were sent to help during last year’s Fort McMurray evacuation and some were sent to areas that accepted those that were displaced by the Slave Lake fire. So, this training isn’t just used to help our community.”

“FCSS staff get ICS 100 as part of their standard training, though our hope was to get more people from the community involved, as there will be a need for volunteers if a reception centre has to be set up here. The hope was to make everyone aware of the terminology, language, processes and structure being used since there are many roles that need to be filled in a reception centre, and the more educated people are, the better prepared they will be to assist the public.”

Boyce-Campbell was also impressed to see so many there, with several interested in being volunteers in the event they are needed. Those that expressed interest were asked to fill out an information package and will then go through a screening process before receiving more specified training.

Donna Noble from Ponoka County was the lead instructor and is part of the ongoing training involved with the emergency management partnership between local municipalities, emergency services and community organizations.

Dennis Jones, Ponoka County’s regional Fire Chief and director of emergency services, explained training complements what was learned during a recent tabletop emergency evacuation exercise.

“It all helps us continue to work together and collaborate in response to an emergency,” he stated. “This class is about preparedness one of the four cycles of emergency management alongside mitigation, response and recovery and is the one that can help the most when something takes place.”

Going a step further on getting prepared to open a reception centre, Boyce-Campbell would like to have some further information from the community.

“We would like to know about any volunteers or how to access any translators for various languages, since most of our volunteers are not fluent in some of the languages that we may face locally, anyone with unique skills like sign language and those that can provide pet and animal care,” she stated.

“The reception centre is responsible for people and pets, so we need to ensure all of that can be accessed. It’s also important to have volunteers that are trained and have the proper security clearances to provide child care and for caterers that are approved by Alberta Health Services as centres can’t accept homemade food.

“We also need to have updated contacts and alternates for access to area community halls in the event they are needed. There are so many things and skills FCSS needs to know, just in case.”

For anyone that may have that type of information or want to volunteer, contact Ponoka FCSS at (403) 783-4462.