Sidney has restricted public access to all municipal buildings, including Town Hall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Sidney Emergency Operations Centre focuses on ‘preparation, not panic’ amid COVID-19 crisis

Residents encouraged to practice social distancing, take care of one another

The Town of Sidney’s COVID-19 response comes with a key message: “Preparation, not panic.”

Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble explained that updates, advisories and information about the town’s response have been posted to the Sidney website twice a day since March 4.

On March 12, the Town activated the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Level 1 which included monitoring the outbreak, keeping residents informed, guiding municipal staff, promoting business continuity and working with stakeholders including care homes, Washington State Ferries and Island Health.

READ ALSO: Retail expert warns of serious consequences for Sidney because of COVID-19

In the following days, community and visitor centres closed, public access to municipal buildings was restricted, playgrounds and skate parks shut down and the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP reduced front-counter service to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Council meetings will continue, though councillors will vote to pass a bylaw permitting electronic meetings in the coming week, Humble said. Residents are encouraged to watch from home via Livestream.

READ ALSO: Grocery stores hiring more staff, offer wage boost as B.C. adapts to COVID-19 buying habits

By March 17, EOC Level 2 had been activated – this included adding a Recovery Planning Section Chief position to the team.

Chief Brett Mikkelsen of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department explained that the pandemic situation has evolved quickly but that the Town’s staff have been working hard on pre-planning.

Sidney EOC is operating seven days a week and planning about 14 to 28 days ahead in terms of provisions and service, he said.

READ ALSO: View Royal families thank hospital staff working through COVID-19 with colourful signs

Communication from the province has been “great” and EOCs throughout the region have been collaborating in what Humble feels is an unprecedented manner. He added that Sidney’s business community has also been heavily involved in recovery planning so that everyone is ready to get back up and running when things eventually go back to normal.

For now, Sidney residents are asked to practice social distancing, check-in with one another safely and avoid flushing wipes or paper towels as they block the sewer system. Those who are able to help can make donations to the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank online at splfoodbank.com/donate or by phone 250-655-0679 and any seniors in need of information or assistance can call the Beacon Community Services for help at 250-655-5537.

READ ALSO: Public life grinding to a halt on the Saanich Peninsula

“People are understandably on edge, but social distancing doesn’t mean isolation,” Mikkelsen said, explaining that there are psychosocial components to disaster events that need to be managed.

First responders and residents alike may have a hard time with the uncertainty as the virus is an unseen threat, he explained. Mikkelsen recommends that residents stay tuned in to government advisories but also “focus on future fun” by planning something enjoyable for a few months from now.

For up to date information on Sidney’s COVID-19 response, visit sidney.ca.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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