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Volunteers vital to emergency reception centre

An emergency reception centre is a critical part of Fort Macleod’s disaster response plan.
The centre at the community hall provides shelter, food, information and support to people in times of major crisis.
“When you have displaced people, they need to know there is someone to care for them,” said Scott Donselaar, a community peace officer with the Town of Fort Macleod.
An emergency reception centre training session was held last month at the Fort Macleod and District Community Hall.
About 14 people including elected officials, a public health inspector, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) staff and the public turned out.
Bill Seymour, the southern region field officer for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said it is vital to plan for emergencies that you hope never happen in your community.
“You see these things happening all over the world and you like to think it’s never going to happen here,” Seymour said.
Disasters such as the flood at High River and the wildfires as Slave Lake and Fort McMurray drive home the reality that major events can happen anywhere.
Residents have a responsibility to be prepared for emergencies, and Seymour recommended people prepare a 72-hour emergency kit.
“We want people to be prepared at home,” Seymour said. “Always be prepared for that first 72 hours.
Emergency response in a community such as Fort Macleod is driven by the municipality.
Seymour said priorities for emergency planning are protecting lives, property, the environment and the economy.
“Just by being here tonight, you are engaged in preparedness,” Seymour told the audience.
The emergency reception centre is an important part of preparedness, providing people with a range of social services.
Those social services include meeting the basic needs of people, providing accurate and up-to-date information about the disaster, and reuniting family and friends.
The basic needs can include food, emotional support, short-term shelter, first aid and information.
“This is a really good facility,” Seymour said of the community hall. “It’s got everything you need. It’s an ideal spot for a reception centre.”
Seymour talked about the importance of registering people at the emergency centre, stressing personal information collected is confidential.
When the municipality determines that people are being evacuated or stranded by a storm the order is given to open the reception centre.
At that point FCSS director Angie O’Connor and staff member Jerri Jo Atwood start calling the volunteers on their list.
Seymour noted that April, May and June is a typical time period when major disasters happen in Alberta, so Fort Macleod should be prepared.
O’Connor said the community is quick to respond in times of need.
“Macleod is an amazing community,” O’Connor said. “It is really comforting to know we have a list of people to call on.”
“We would love to have you on that list.”
To add your name to the emergency reception centre volunteer list, contact FCSS at 403-553-4491.

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