The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) and Cortes Radio have come to an agreement which will see the SRD be able to provide accurate emergency information over the airwaves should it be necessary to do so.
The Cortes Island Radio Society was formed in 2004 and broadcasts to Cortes, Quadra, Maurelle and Read Islands as well as Campbell River and parts of the Comox Valley. This agreement, according to Cortes Radio president Roy Hales, brings one of the founders’ goals to fruition.
“Our constitution states that one of the station’s purposes is ‘to establish an ongoing community radio station that can broadcast important information to the community in cooperation with emergency services,’” Hales says.
“The ability to disseminate information to the public during an emergency is a crucial pillar of emergency response (and) his memorandum of understanding will allow the SRD’s Emergency Operations Centre to pass valuable, confirmed messages directly to Cortes Community Radio.”
Should the radio station itself be unable to broadcast due to the emergency, Hales says, “the SRD has supplied Cortes Island with two radio kits and a satellite telephone in order to enhance the degree of redundancy that is built into our ability to communicate tactical emergency information.”
Shaun Koopman, the SRD’s protective services coordinator — who will be compiling the information to be communicated should an emergency occur — says the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is actually a pretty big deal, and gives much of the credit for the agreement to the work of Amanda and Barry Glickman, who represent the SRD on the Mid-Island Emergency Radio Coordination Team.
That team coordinates how radio will be used during any major emergency north of the Malahat, and Barry says this MOU will go a long way in helping their efforts.
“Cortes is very privileged to have communications capacity in the form of a broadcasting radio station,” Barry says. “In an emergency, what else could you imagine that would work better to get the news out? The problem is that there are all kinds of logistical problems. You have to have electricity; you have to have input of the proper, correct information to get out, and that information has to be reliable. So this process of working together with Shaun and his people in order to be an effective communications source, now formalized in the form of an MOU, is a recognition of the necessity of working together.”
“Radio communication is so important in an emergency,” Amanda says. “There was an incident that happened just last year on Gabriola Island and people were really stymied because the Internet was down, the telephones were down and nobody knew anything. They had no clue whether they were safe or not – or what they should do. At the very least, if there’s information on the radio, it gives you the confidence to know that things are going to be okay and there’s information to help you take care of yourself.”
“In the event of an emergency like an earthquake, people are desperate for information,” Koopman says, “and if they don’t have it, panic can set in. By having this MOU, we’re making sure that reliable information is what’s getting out there, as well, because the information that’s getting passed on to the radio station will have been confirmed by the SRD or City of Campbell River Emergency Operations Centre, as opposed to something someone is reading on Facebook, for example.”
Koopman says this is only the first of what he hopes will be numerous agreements between the SRD and radio stations around the region, but it’s a significant one, because of the station’s wide reach and coverage of the outlying islands and communities, which may feel even more remote after a significant event.