When Campbell Riverites in the city’s south end answered their doors Oct. 29, it wasn’t early trick-or-treaters waiting on their stoop. Members of Campbell River Search and Rescue were conducting an emergency evacuation drill.
About 30 SAR members went door-to-door that evening in Willow Point between Harrogate, Erickson, Highway 19A and Hilchey Roads to conduct a practice wildfire evacuation order.
The exercise was about putting the Strathcona Regional District (SRD)’s plans into action.
“We always want to exercise our plans to make sure they match up with the expectations of reality and if there’s any gaps,” said SRD Protective Services Coordinator Shaun Koopman. “It always misses something when you put the boots on the ground and you will never know that unless you put the boots on the ground and get an after-action report.”
They split into teams of two and divided the area.
At the corner of Reef Crescent and Erickson Road, the team of Angela Janicki, Mike Beattie, Tyler Abbott and Norm Ritchie stopped to consult their notes before splitting up – Janicki and Beattie would take the outside of the crescent, while Abbott and Ritchie would do the inside.
A push of the doorbell; a knock at the door.
“Campbell River Search and Rescue. We’re running a simulation. We’ve been tasked by police to do an emergency evacuation simulation.”
The conversations at most homes were the same.
Could you leave in five minutes? Yes. Does anyone require special assistance? No. Have a good night.
In under a minute, they’d finish their spiel and move on to the next door.
In 75 minutes, SAR members attempted to reach the majority of the homes in the area.
By the end of the exercise, they’d visited 170 homes.
Koopman said while the goal was to visit as many homes as possible in-person, a large part of the exercise was in getting the information out.
“We cast a wider net,” he said, “because even if we only made it to 200 homes, we wanted the other 500 homes to know what’s going on.”
After the debrief, Koopman said there were very few surprises from the exercise.
“We anticipated to find a lot more difficulties than we experienced,” he said. “We were very impressed with the preparedness of some people.”
It’s the second time in the last few years that a wildfire exercise has been done. The major change is that there’s now a colour of door-knob ribbon to signify that the household requires extra assistance.
Koopman said the area for the exercise was chosen because of its proximity to the SAR Hall, to make it easier for the volunteer members to attend the training.
SAR volunteers indicated the exercise is something that should be done annually. Koopman said that with the group’s support, it could happen again next year.