Get prepared, not scared

Emergency planning in Oak Bay shifts into next gear

Oak Bay Emergency Program manager

Oak Bay Emergency Program manager

Oak Bay’s emergency program manager knows how to respond in a disaster. If she has her way, everyone else will, too.

Eileen Grant took over the job in August from Deputy Fire Chief Dave Cockle, after spending three years as an emergency preparedness volunteer in Saanich.

With a new Emergency Response and Recovery Plan soon to be adopted, Oak Bay can be one of the region’s best-prepared municipalities, Grant said.

“I am just part of a team and the team I work with really believes in this whole undertaking,” she said. “If people are prepared for disaster … they can kick into action. We hope people will be prepared, not scared.”

A handful of university courses on the process of preparedness piqued her interest. When she moved here from Calgary, where the possibilities for natural disaster are fewer than on the West Coast, she took a workshop she said changed her life. When the seminars ended with a call for volunteers, Grant threw her hand up.

“I was fascinated by the necessity, the complexity and simplicity of it,” she said. “Vancouver Island is at risk for a big earthquake that (will) make a major impact.”

She hopes upcoming workshops and events such as the Great British Columbia ShakeOut will help people get prepared.

Oak Bay Fire Chief Gerry Adam is happy to have Grant aboard.

“The emergency program has really ramped up and become a focal point with the municipality,” Adam said. “Having a dedicated person will move that program further along … I feel it is only going to get better with her working with us.”

Previous work experience allowed Grant to see how people handle difficult situations and how important those skills were to survival. “For me that is what emergency preparedness is about: gaining resilience and hope that (it’s) going to be okay.”

The Great British Columbia ShakeOut ( happens at 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20.

The next emergency preparedness workshop is 7 p.m., Nov. 15, at Windsor Park Pavilion.