Town preparing for another evacuation season

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Town of Slave Lake needs to be ready to respond when emergencies happen. Last year it was hosting wildfire evacuees; this year it might be something else.

Town Community Relations Manager Jillian Hutchings presented an update on the situation to council at the April 9 meeting.

For starters, she said, what the town sees as its role in disaster response is “meeting the basic physical and emotional needs of people, families or entire communities during an emergency.”

Anything above those ‘basic’ needs, Hutchings said, and other agencies have to be involved. She gave some examples.

Looking after animals is a whole other challenge, with expectations that may not match what the town is able to offer.

Handling the costs of hosting evacuees is yet another complicated aspect of the big picture, which formed a significant part of the report. There are questions about what the province’s Disaster Recovery Program will cover and what it won’t.

One thing that came up at a recent regional meeting on the topic, Hutchings told council, was that “people are shopping for the most desirable community when they’re evacuated.” That means more burden on some towns than others.

Speaking of recovering costs, how about loss of interest on the money spent looking after evacuees? Is anybody taking that into consideration? That question from Councillor Brice Ferguson.

“It’s a net loss to the community,” he said.

Hutchings reports concludes:

“Overall, ESS (emergency social services) is a large undertaking… We want to provide assistance where possible, but also need to ensure we are staying within our capacity. Our hope is that by having a better-established process and guidelines we are better able to respond…. Or that we know what to ask for if we are evacuated to another community.”

Share this post

Post Comment