This is part eight of a special eight-part report done by Black Press Media on emergency preparedness in Greater Victoria. Find the series online at vicnews.com/tag/greater-victoria-emergency-preparedness.
When disaster strikes, the Red Cross is there.
Gary Nason has been a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross for more than eight years and has been deployed across the country nine times to attend disaster relief situations.
In 2013 he went to Calgary to attend floods, in 2014 he saw floods in Winnipeg, and in 2016 he went to Alberta twice for wildfires near Edmonton and Fort McMurray. In 2018 he had several B.C. deployments for wildfires, and this year he was sent to Ottawa to help with floods.
“It can be stressful and it can be somewhat exhausting,” said Nason, who joined the Canadian Red Cross after he retired. “I think you need to expect that it can be chaotic and expect potentially long days, but keep in mind that you’re not there alone, you have a significant team with you.”
Nason has taken on several roles throughout his years, beginning as a one-on-one case manager and working his way up to now being the volunteer team lead for Greater Victoria. In his supervisory role he helps coordinate volunteers to disaster sites but occasionally steps into his previous roles if resources require it.
Throughout his time with Red Cross, he’s noticed more and more people are starting to think differently about preparedness, and sees a significant difference in relief services for people who have prepared for a disaster.
Having that extra wiggle room knowing people are temporarily okay will allow Red Cross volunteers more time to establish needs with other organizations in the event of a disaster.
In Greater Victoria, for example, Red Cross would work with local authorities, government partners and other response agencies to assess the immediate needs of those impacted and respond accordingly. It would also set up a safe space, gather critical information on the event, help people with urgent needs and help people connect with loved ones.
Nason added in most emergency disaster situations, it will likely be several days before Red Cross or local authorities can access the site. “It’s advisable to operate under the assumption that you’re going to be on your own for a while,” Nason added.
A typical Red Cross 72-hour kit includes a crank flashlight, basic medical supplies, a sleeping bag, a hooded poncho, work gloves, water and food.
Corinne Mercier, communications advisor for BC Wildfire Recovery Operations, emphasized it’s important to personalize your kit.
“I’ve heard from people that I’ve interviewed that when they had to evacuate they didn’t bring important documentation, with prescription medications and very important things people might not plan to put in their emergency preparedness kits.”
She added, “it makes a big difference, especially if you’re in a position where your home is gone.”
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