When Hope was cut off at every highway last November, the town’s safety became the focus of the Health Emergency Management BC (HEMBC).
The emergency response ran non-stop for 23 days, said Scott Blessin, manager of HEMBC at Fraser Health.
“It’s certainly the longest response I have experienced in my 16 years,” with HEMBC, he said. “And in the Lower Mainland, it was most significant event we have ever seen.”
Most emergencies are much shorter term, he said. The event means they’ve learned valuable lessons about managing communities in an emergency, long term.
In addition to being a longer event than usual, it was a “crisis of immediacy” to help not only the community but those being cared for in hospital in spite of the emergency and due to it.
To that end, they will soon deliver a 20-foot seacan container to Hope’s Fraser Canyon Hospital, which will be filled with the sort of emergency equipment that was needed at the hospital immediately during the crisis. There will be items such as hospital beds, sleeping cots, blankets, emergency food and water supplies as well as other medical items.
HEMBC was able to deploy a ‘deployable alternate care unit’ to Hope secondary, which operated as an emergency shelter for most of the crisis. It was kept at the school because of the hospital’s proximity to the Coquihalla River, which had risen to historic heights and was wearing away at the banks nearby.
Once the river safely came down, that unit was able to be moved to the hospital.
Blessin had nothing but praise for the staff at Fraser Canyon in caring for the community under unseen circumstances.
“To have upwards of 1,000 (extra) people in your community is remarkable in and of itself,” he said.
Not only was Hope cut off from all highways, but due to the flooding in the Sumas area of Abbotsford, Chilliwack General Hospital was for some time, as well.
It was all part of a year of firsts and biggests and worsts.
“To have all routes out of Hope simultaneously being severed was shocking, but 2021 was a year of a lot of revelations of what we’re facing as we move forward with climate change,” Blessin said.
And the more they can arm communities across the province with the tools to help themselves as resources are being deployed, the better. Other communties that have sea cans at their hospitals are Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Sechelt and Powell River.
“This was a really unique experience for us and now we are starting to plan, and to have more equipment ready for us in the future.
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