Have you every heard that old saying about the weather in March? “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” Sadly for our neighbours across Northern and Southern Alberta last week June came “in like a lamb but went out like a lion.”
While the cost of the flood damage will be calculated in terms of lives lost and impacted, the value of property damage, and confidence shaken, there are also many stories emerging this week that help illuminate, quantify, and qualify the generosity of humans and the resilience of people and communities, the power of volunteers to make a difference, and the need to have volunteer services and infrastructure in place – so that when a call to action is issued volunteers know where to go and how to help.
Municipalities across Greater Victoria have robust emergency response programs that operate quietly behind the scenes year round – making sure that they are ready to respond to any and all types of small and large scale emergencies, to provide training to community members and businesses, and to recruit and train volunteers. Volunteer Victoria and the City of Victoria have a formal plan in place should a volunteer centre be needed in the case of a large scale local emergency.
In many emergencies, however, the scope of need grows beyond those vital services provided by first responders. Once lives and essential services are safely secured in those early hours and days after an emergency, volunteers are often called upon long-term to help rebuild public spaces and assets. In Calgary more than 2,500 volunteers will be needed over the next two weeks to help revitalize the Calgary Stampede grounds. In Fort McMurray dozens of volunteers worked this last weekend to salvage 1000’s of paper documents and artifacts from their flooded Heritage Park.
In the weeks after an emergency volunteers are often recruited to feed and house families and animals, remove debris, help replant parks and public gardens, support those who have suffered loss, and help rebuild lives and gathering spaces, community and civic centres, and those places that are vital to our culture, our memory making, our economy, and our wellness.
Volunteer Victoria salutes all first responder and community building volunteers this week. Thank you for stepping up to help your neighbours.
If you want to learn more about emergency planning or volunteer opportunities, please contact your local municipal emergency response program.