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Cooling centre concerns read at qathet Regional District meeting

Regional directors receive correspondence about what to do in extreme heat events
PLAN WANTED: qathet Regional District directors were asked about facilities that Texada Island island residents could go to for relief from extreme weather events.

qathet Regional District’s (qRD) committee of the whole has received an email with direction to develop plans for heat events.

At the September 8 committee of the whole meeting, directors reviewed correspondence from Ken White, who expressed concern about a lack of a cooling centre 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.

Manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms said there was no specific plan within the regional emergency plan, currently. He said there was no direction to proceed with one.

McCormick said that since climate change impact is becoming more prevalent, it would be appropriate for Thoms’ department to be directed to develop a cooling plan for incredibly hot days.

Thoms said that could be a direction from the board.

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

Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said the regional district could identify where people might go to existing infrastructure that has cooling capability. He said that is more feasible and less costly than developing a system of cooling centres.

Thoms said City of Powell River, on a relatively informal basis, was able to establish the library as being a place that has cooling already. Looking at facilities the regional district owns and operates, without capital improvements, there is no cooling centre with reference to the correspondence.

City director George Doubt said places like City of Vancouver and City of Powell River utilize resources they have. He said there is a provincial emergency program that provides heat warnings, and he has done things to cool off, but not everybody can do that.

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

“Where the rub comes is having a plan – who is going to pay for it? Who is going to put air conditioning in the buildings or who is going to build the water park? We need to spend some time thinking about that. I would be careful saying we were going to go about implementing a plan without putting some resources in place to make sure the plan works.”

The committee voted to receive the correspondence.

City director CaroleAnn Leishman said the regional district could communicate what buildings are accessible to the public in each electoral area. She moved that direction be given to staff to identify buildings in each electoral area for Vancouver Coastal Health, that are open to the public that do have cooling already, for heat warning notifications.

The committee carried Leishman’s motion.

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