Party primes block for recovery

Community container takes centre stage in emergency planning portion of block party

Felix Pauliszyn tries on Oak Bay firefighter turnout gear during a south Oak Bay block party.

Felix Pauliszyn tries on Oak Bay firefighter turnout gear during a south Oak Bay block party.



Oak Bay’s tradition to have a fire crew attend each Oak Bay block party adds an element of safety planning for the community.

In a rare case these days, though it was at one time frequent, a member of the Oak Bay Emergency Program attends the neighbourhood party. Last weekend program manager Eileen Grant showed up alongside those fire crews to the fourth annual Rosario Street block party.

“For a long time we participated and let people know we were available,” Grant said.

While it worked well for a while, the shine began to fade as did the commitment and the emergency program sought to determine everyone’s best use of time.

“When the chief (Dave Cockle) became chief he just said we’re going to all of them,” Grant said. “He and I put our heads together to see how best we could make this work.” Cockle also serves as Oak Bay’s emergency program co-ordinator.

The fire crew on duty visits at some point during a block party – dependent on work load – driving the impressive engine and bearing important emergency program information compiled by Grant.

“What they do for me is at the beginning of the season I put together a whole lot of packages for emergency preparedness,” she said, noting nobody generally wants to listen to too much talk during a party.

They did take home 125 packages last year. “This year we’re on target.”

When organizer Chris Ash called and asked if Grant would attend last Saturday’s party, perhaps talk a little, the two women decided to play it by ear, see if the neighbourhood was receptive to some verbal info.

It turned out that the shift in emergency planning meshed nicely with a plan that community has for a neighbourhood container.

“I started to talk about how we’re talking more and more about recovery,” Grant said. “If you put food in and all the usual, somebody has to monitor that … It could be your cleanup. You put some brooms and some shovels and tools. If (a disaster) hits there will be a need for hammers and screwdrivers and work gloves.”

It was the fourth block party for the south Oak Bay neighbourhood, according to Ash.

“This is probably our biggest one yet, we had maybe 50 or 55 people,” she said, counting four or five new families in the neighbourhood. “It was a nice way for them to get to know the neighbourhood.”

While discussing a way to make the fourth party different, alongside the traditional fire truck and pinatas for the kids, organizers decided to spark conversation of a community project by inviting Grant.

“Our neighbourhood is thinking of getting one of the small containers and putting it in a neighbour’s yard, a neighbourhood container,” Ash said.

Grant may have also sussed out some community gigs for fall and winter – OBEP makes presentations to small groups and organizations as well.

“I met some people, maybe found a couple of volunteers,” she said. “It was a very successful for me, for the program, and everybody seemed quite happy.”

“We discovered a lot of people in the neighbourhood don’t even have an emergency kit,” Ash said. “It was a good way to make people think about being prepared. The message really got out there.”

Visit oakbay.ca/public-safety/emergency-program for details on the program.

 

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