The Beacher Ranch at the corner of Highway 20 and Farwell Canyon. (Bailey Fuller/Black Press)

The Beacher Ranch at the corner of Highway 20 and Farwell Canyon. (Bailey Fuller/Black Press)

John White: Prepare, don’t panic, and pay it forward

I was thinking about how our region would respond to an evacuation order.

A couple of weeks back, I was thinking about how our region would respond to an evacuation order if wildfires threatened our area.

It was a fairly abstract and unfocused thought, as it was early in the wildfire season. That feeling of distance disappeared Saturday night while watching Williams Lake residents get the call to evacuate. The city of about 11,000 is similar enough to Castlegar to warrant the reality check.

What is clear after that evacuation is the need for preparation and a reasoned response once the call comes through.

It is so important to prepare as best you can before an evacuation. We ran an article that perfectly outlines the things you need to do to get ready. You can find that here: http://bit.ly/2tZFJzp. Please go through it thoroughly and share the link on Facebook to help others.

This preparation will help to minimize the panic response if the order comes down. Black Press covered the evacuation in Williams Lake (http://bit.ly/2utiH6g) and despite traffic delays, things went smoothly thanks to strong planning and a calm response to the order.

It’s also wise to register with the Canadian Red Cross before evacuating so your whereabouts can be confirmed, and so you can stay on top of updates.

“The Province of B.C. strongly encourages all evacuees to register with the Canadian Red Cross, even if aid is not required. Registering will allow family and friends to know the whereabouts of loved ones and that they are safe. It also allows the Canadian Red Cross to contact people directly as more information and assistance become available,” the province said in a recent release.

“To register, contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1 800 863-6582 or online: http://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/current-emergency-responses.

You may want to consider donating to the appeal to help your provincial neighbours who have already been affected. It’s good karma, and it might just help fund your evacuation should the need arise down the road.

“A British Columbia Fires Appeal has been opened for Canadians who wish to help those in need. Donations will help provide immediate relief, such as cots, blankets, family reunification and financial assistance for food, clothing and personal needs. Beyond meeting immediate needs, your donation may also help re-entry and go toward more long-term recovery, resiliency and preparedness.”

Here’s the link to donate: http://bit.ly/2voP8zW.

We’ve seen how quickly fires can ignite and spread in B.C. with the wildfires in the Kelowna area in recent years, and in Alberta with the Fort McMurray fire in May of 2016.

Those lush, green mountains surrounding us might bring a false sense of security. Don’t let that comfort catch you off guard.

So, the key takeaways from this column: prepare, don’t panic and pay it forward.

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