Emergency Check-in

Editorial

Tuesday, September 26 2017

Those who believe the Community Hall should be an Emergency Reception Centre for the south end of Gabriola seem to be focused on the idea that in the event of an emergency, the hall would be an ideal place to shelter those for whom shelter cannot be found anywhere else.

Number 1 rule of an Emergency Reception Centre: there is no shelter there. An ERC is a designated location for people to go to, to check in with local emergency authorities, declare what kind of aid they might need; and then be directed towards that kind of aid.

If the Community Hall Board, and its supporters, are so intent on serving as a temporary shelter during an emergency, being the ERC works against that very concept. 

The Board says it is willing to pay the difference in cost that it would take to install a generator at the Community Hall instead of at Christ Church.

According to the RDN’s staff, a 150 kW generator would be required to support both heat and other electrical needs of the Hall due to the 48kW boiler system and a 600 Amp service to the building. Remember, we’re talking during an emergency. The ERC has to operate as a stand-alone facility, no outside power will be available.

In theory, a 50kW generator could be installed at the Community Hall - but it would only run the lights and basic appliances. There would be no heat. Which doesn’t make for a very good temporary shelter. For that matter, it doesn’t make for a pleasant place for emergency workers/volunteers to run an ERC either.

RDN staff said to install a 150kW generator would run $98,000. That’s almost twice the cost of what it will be to install the 50kW.

Another tidbit of information: when the RDN designated the Community Hall in 2007 as the south-end ERC, it did not (at the time) do a readiness and suitable report. Staff said at the Sept. 12 RDN Board meeting that had that report been done at the time, the RDN would not have selected the Community Hall as an ERC.

Even if the RDN accepted the Community Hall’s offer to pay the additional cost of installing a generator at the Hall - noted above as being just shy of $50,000 - the Community Hall does not currently have that in its budget to provide.

The Hall is, as of press time, continuing to pursue its appeal to the RDN for a referendum to be provided $40,000 per year in tax-based funding.

But it hasn’t been granted that money yet. 

The south-end has gone almost a decade (since ERCs were designated) without having an ERC actually being functional.

The RDN’s terms for an ERC require the generator still be owned (and movable) by the RDN to other sites as time progresses. The generator is not owned by the designated site.

If the Community Hall is successful in the petition and referendum, it could then use that funding towards a generator owned and operated in perpetua by the Community Hall. 

If the Community Hall Board wishes to provide emergency shelter, and a place to stay for Gabriolans in the event of an emergency, that is a fantastic goal. And one which should have been the actual goal for the past ten years - rather than waiting on the RDN to then find out the building is not suitable for what an ERC serves as.

The Community Hall is, and always will be, a perfect site for Gabriolans to provide everything its supporters want it to provide. Food, temporary shelter, temporary lodging.

An ERC is none of those things. 

It is an information hub, a kiosk in the midst of chaos, where residents check in for services needed, and to say, “yes, we’re still here and we are (or are not) ok.” and are provided the information they need to obtain needed services.

Given those two options, the arguments being made saying the Community Hall should be the ERC - are the very arguments which say it should not.