If your home was impacted by high water last year, staff at the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen are urging you to prepare for flooding now.
Paul Edmonds, the RDOS’ newly acquired emergency management program coordinator, said there’s a definite potential for flooding with the snow pack estimates at over 141 per cent and warmer weather in the forecast.
“Prepare yourselves,” he urged residents affected by flooding in 2017. “Don’t wait for us to respond to a flooding incident. If you think you’re at risk find out what you can do.”
Edmonds said during a meeting with regional media Wednesday that over the last few weeks he’s received more than 20 calls from concerned residents living in flooding-prone areas across the RDOS.
Information given depends on circumstances, but always includes reminding residents to make sure they have at least a 72-hour supply of medications, and a take away bag ready including identification, clothing, food and other supplies, if they need to leave their home.
Cameron Baughen, who’s regular job with RDOS is solid waste management co-ordinator also works in the Emergency Operation Centre when an emergency is declared. He attested to the importance of people being prepared.
“You can deal with 20 families and they are all prepared. They’ve got their cell phone charger, they’ve got their medications and they come in and they are simple and they’re good. But if one person comes in and forgets their meds and they go critical you have to call an ambulance, you have to get them to the hospital, they’re taking up all that critical care because they weren’t prepped up,” he said.
For those looking to protect their areas from flooding, RDOS is currently working on identifying strategic locations for homeowners to collect sandbags.
Those that will need sandbagging done they should start organizing volunteers now. Although the RDOS might be able to connect residents to volunteer groups, that isn’t always the case, Mark Woods, community services manager for the RDOS said. Woods said unlike when fires happen and BC Wildfire or the local fire department can be called to help, there is no agency that answers the call in the same capacity with flooding.
“Our side of it is the folks that start calling and ‘OK who’s coming to fix this?’ Because there is no fire department, no response group so that was a big, big, challenge for us last year. So, we turn our minds to where we can move sand and sandbags, because boiling it down it’s guidance and advice (we can give). It’s trying to keep people safe and it’s giving them some tools to work on it. It’s not bringing out heavy equipment to work on it, cleaning out ditches and culverts. That’s not the business that we’re in and that’s a really tough part of this because that’s what we’re seeing as the biggest impact,” he said.
Woods said RDOS doesn’t have the capacity to do that type of work, sand bagging, excavation, but must focus on connecting residents to the right services they need at the time.
For those looking to do work near waterways, they must gain permission from the province through the FrontcounterBC website or the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, depending on the type of flooding mitigation they want to complete. In an emergency situation, including debris blocking creeks and water spilling onto roadways, residents can contact Argo Road Maintenance at 250-493-6969.
In mid-April the RDOS plans to launch a messaging system called Civic Ready, which allows residents to signup for the service and receive emergency alerts about flooding of fires in the area. More information about this service is forthcoming.
The RDOS is working to revamp its website and social media channels to more effectively get their messaging out to residents.
Regional staff are working with the provincial agencies to identify areas that might flood this year and receives regular updates from the province about water levels in local lakes and river systems. Water is being pumped from the Okanagan Lake system to try and increase the holding capacity of the lake.
“We’re still praying for a warm, gentle spring, so we have slow snow melt, but we need to be prepared,” he said.
Things to do before a flood:
– Know if you live in a flood-risk area
– Prepare emergency kits for your home and car
– Have an emergency plan that every household member knows
– Keep important documents in watertight containers
– Reach out to family and neighbours
– Ensure your car has a full tank of gas
– Have a plan in place in case you need to move pets and livestock
– Keep an eye on the River Forecast Centre for river level and snow pack information
– Watch for warning signs: increase in height and intensity of water flows, mudslides, debris in creeks, colour changes in water or leaning trees