qRD committee discusses heat warning plan

Regional managers receive correspondence on what to do in the event of extreme heat

The Qathet Regional District (qRD) Committee of the Whole received an email asking them to develop plans for heat events.

At the September 8 Committee of the Whole, directors reviewed correspondence from Ken White, who raised concerns about the lack of a cooling center on Texada.

Electoral Area D Director and Committee Chair Sandy McCormick asked staff if there was a heat warning plan as part of the regional district’s emergency preparedness program.

Emergency services director Ryan Thoms said there is currently no specific plan in the regional emergency plan. He said there was no directive to proceed with one.

McCormick said that since the impact of climate change is becoming more widespread, it would be appropriate for Thoms’ department to be tasked with developing a cooling plan for incredibly hot days.

Thoms said that could be a board direction.

“Since the events of June 2021, this has been considered by some local governments, remembering, of course, that this is first and foremost a health emergency,” Thoms added. “There have certainly been discussions at the staff level with the health authorities, and wishing to see some leadership with regard to these health emergencies, similar to the pandemic. That’s something this council can consider.

Electoral Area E Director Andrew Fall said the Regional District could identify where people can go in existing infrastructure with cooling capacity. He said it’s more feasible and less expensive than developing a cooling center system.

Thoms said the town of Powell River, on a relatively informal basis, was able to establish the library as an already chilled place. With respect to the facilities that the regional district owns and operates, without capital improvements, there is no cooling center in reference to the correspondence.

City Manager George Doubt said places like the City of Vancouver and the Town of Powell River are using the resources they have. He said there’s a provincial emergency program that provides heat warnings, and he’s done things to cool down, but not everyone can do that.

“My point is that it has very little impact to have a plan unless you have resources to use in that plan to put something into effect,” Doubt said. “If you have a building to go to that has a cooling system where people can go to cool off, or if you have a place with facilities where you can actually offer help, that’s fine.

“Where it hurts is having a plan – who’s going to pay for it? Who will put the air conditioning in the buildings or who will build the water park? We need to spend some time thinking about it. I would be cautious in saying that we were going to implement a plan without putting resources in place to make sure the plan works.

The committee voted to receive the correspondence.

City Manager CaroleAnn Leishman said the regional district could communicate which buildings are accessible to the public in each electoral area. She proposed that instructions be given to staff to identify buildings in each electoral area for Vancouver Coastal Health, which are open to the public and already have a cooling system, for heat warning notifications.

The committee adopted Leishman’s motion.

Carol N. Valencia