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Building disaster-resiliency in Esquimalt

Royal Roads University students are debriefed on measures that CFB Esquimalt has in place in the event a disaster strikes, from Navy Lt. Dwight Ince, deputy operations and emergency plans officer. The students recently evaluated Esquimalt
Royal Roads University students are debriefed on measures that CFB Esquimalt has in place in the event a disaster strikes, from Navy Lt. Dwight Ince, deputy operations and emergency plans officer. The students recently evaluated Esquimalt's disaster resiliency.
— image credit: Erin McCracken/News staff

The Township of Esquimalt may become more resilient in the event a large-scale disaster strikes, thanks to some Royal Roads University students.

Fourteen second-year Disaster and Emergency Management master’s degree students are evaluating how the municipality could manage during a disaster, such as a disease outbreak or an earthquake.

In addition to helping the community improve its disaster resiliency, the students' assessment could help the township earn a United Nations designation as a disaster-resilient community.

For a similar project, Royal Roads students evaluated Oak Bay, Saanich and View Royal last year, (all of whom?) have since earned the UN designation. North Vancouver and Nanaimo are the only other Canadian cities that have UN disaster-resilient status.

“That would be a real feather in our cap,” said Maegan Thompson, Esquimalt emergency program manager.

The students, working professionals with extensive experience in related fields such as emergency services or disaster management, began the Capstone residency project April 23.

They have since been meeting with Esquimalt managers and CFB Esquimalt officials, as well as attending disaster preparedness meetings. The object is to learn what Esquimalt has in place to help reduce loss of life, as well as economic and environmental resources, in a disaster.

“It’s a fact-finding week, so we’re poring over documents, disaster emergency plans; we’re poring through the websites,” said student team leader Conrad Cowan, a search-and-rescue technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Nova Scotia.

“We’re engaging the community. We’re interviewing who we think would have the answers to try and get our heads (around) what is in place, what’s not and how can we make this better.”

The group planned to present their report to Esquimalt's mayor and council yesterday (May 10).

“It’s an opportunity to look at our successes and help with future planning, so it may identify gaps,” Thompson said.

Other than minimal staff time, the project is free of charge for Esquimalt.

Given the calibre of students and the wealth of knowledge they bring to the table, if the municipality had to pay for their evaluation, the price tag would be “massive,” Thompson said.

The students are also benefiting by working within a community, said Royal Roads associate faculty member Laurie Pearce, who is coaching the students through the Capstone project.

“This brings together all of the elements they learned about community participation, community engagement, key issues in disaster management ... and also gives the community something in return,” she said.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Did you know?

Royal Roads University and York University in Toronto are the only two Canadian universities that offer a graduate program in Disaster and Emergency Management.

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