While Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop says the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have come out of nowhere, she says the District was somewhat prepared even before it hit.
“Going into this thing we were ahead of the game,” Dunlop said. “We certainly had enough for what we needed and could help smaller communities too.”
Dunlop doubles as the District’s emergency program director and says she coordinates on a daily basis with the mayor and council as well as emergency program staff.
At first, Dunlop said they had to address issues such as how to support the most vulnerable people in the community. Now, nearly one month after the pandemic hit the region, Dunlop says there are new issues to be dealt with.
“One of the challenges – because provincial parks are closed – is that people naturally come out here and that adds a lot of extra stress on smaller communities like ours,” Dunlop said. “The beach is a fabulous place to go … but you have to drive to get there. There are parking issues and added public in a normally quiet neighbourhood.”
There was also some concern about whether or not emergency vehicles could get through areas but Dunlop noted Easter long weekend traffic was well maintained.
When it comes to gear and a medical response team, Dunlop said the District planned ahead to be prepared for any kind of disaster. While the idea behind coordinating a team did not come together with a pandemic in mind, Dunlop said they now have a group of doctors and nurses in Metchosin who can help where needed as well as supplies like masks, gowns and equipment.
The Old Metchosin School has also been designated as an isolation space with sleeping areas, washrooms and a kitchen that were originally meant for a cancelled cadet camp.
Having a community filled with people who want to help is a benefit as well, Dunlop said.
“They want to stay home, socially distance and support getting rid of this pandemic,” Dunlop said. “We’re fortunate our citizens can keep the social distancing by just going out into their yard.”
Moving forward, Dunlop asks people to refrain from open burning in accordance with provincial guidelines. She said the District is trying to come up with strategies on how to deal with debris and brush on properties as wildfire season nears.
In addition, residents who are 50 years or older should be staying home and utilizing resources from the District for help getting groceries and prescriptions.
“People over the age of 50 or 60 are at a higher risk and although they feel great we ask that they self-isolate,” Dunlop said. “The risk is low here, but why risk it when we have so many people that are willing to support you?”