Emergency Social Services (ESS) teams across the Regional District of East Kootenay have received a funding boost. They have responded to many emergencies in the Valley including the apartment fire at the Ponderosa Manor apartments in Sparwood, August 9. File photo

Funding boost for Kootenay emergency social services

$24,700 to go towards additional training, supplies for ESS teams across East Kootenay

Volunteers who support East Kootenay residents during their greatest hour of need have received a funding boost.

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has been approved for $24,700 in provincial emergency preparedness funding to support its emergency social services (ESS) teams.

The RDEK has three regional ESS teams: Elk Valley/South Country based in Fernie; Central based in Cranbrook and Kimberley; and Columbia Valley based in Invermere and Edgewater. There are also two municipal teams in Elkford and Sparwood that form part of the Elk Valley team.

Emergency Program Coordinator Anita Charest said these volunteers are called upon anytime an emergency requires evacuation of residents.

“Accommodation, meals, clothing and incidentals may be provided on a case by case basis, depending on the severity of the event,” she said.

Major events ESS teams have responded to recently include the ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena in October 2017, the fatal apartment fire at Ponderosa Manor in Sparwood Heights and the evacuation of homes affected by the Corbin Road wildfire, both in August.

Charest said the funding will go towards training for ESS directors and volunteers that isn’t regularly offered free through the Province, such as first aid.

Some of the money will also be used to buy supplies, such as tables, chairs and tents, for the RDEK’s new ESS trailer, which will give the teams greater mobility.

“The trailer allows the teams to set up reception centres in remote locations if necessary,” said Charest. “Other items the funding will be used for include additional laptops to assist the team during activations; and vests and shirts for team identification.”

The East Kootenay is one of 25 communities to receive funding in the second intake of the Emergency Social Services component of the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF).

Administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the fund is part of a $33.5-million plan to help communities prepare for, and respond to, disasters.

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