A reinvigorated emergency response vehicle dedicated to serving the Capital Regional District is ready to roll again.
The Salvation Army recently launched the Hope Van, an on-call vehicle that will respond to local fire and police emergencies, provide province-wide support during major disasters, deliver food, blankets and survival supplies to the homeless and breakfasts to school children, and offer support for victims of disasters.
Donated by members of the public, the van replaces the Beacon Bus, an old school bus that was re-purposed as an emergency response vehicle in 1997.
In the past, the iconic Beacon Bus has responded to more than 200 call outs including search and rescues, bomb threats, natural disasters and fire evacuations in the community. The 1950s vintage school bus was eventually taken off the road three years ago due to old age.
Now, the new van is outfitted and ready to roll.
The van, designed for urban response scenarios, is smaller than the previous vehicle. Though it doesn’t have a kitchen and washroom, it does include two electric food warmers that have the capacity to carry 700 prepared meals, a cooler, a coffee maker, tea, hot water, microwave, hot water heater and an on-board generator.
Instead of preparing the food in the van, it will now be made in the kitchen of the Salvation Army on Johnson Street and frozen.
“If we need to act quickly, we can get meals out very quickly,” said Brian Slous, alternate director for emergency disaster services for the Salvation Army in British Columbia. “It will benefit any displaced people in distress, it will benefit our first responders and those who are on scene during an on-going situation, as well as homeless people in the community.”
The van is operated by five volunteers who would deploy during a disaster.
Saanich’s Ron Walker, who has been a volunteer with the program for more than six years, said there is a need in the community for such services.
“It’s the gratitude of the people who we’re serving, from the first responders who appreciate a coffee on a cold night to the families that we need from the bus,” Walker said, adding in the future he hopes there will be enough resources and volunteers to run a second van to assist residents in the district.
The van is one of 20 emergency response vehicles the Salvation Army operates across the province, two of which are on Vancouver Island in Comox and Nanaimo.