Municipal facilities are currently closed to the public. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

Municipal facilities are currently closed to the public. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

Emergency response teams continue services during pandemic

The RCMP, SAR, and fire department proceed with operations throughout COVID-19 situation

Despite the closures of various businesses and services throughout the Elk Valley, emergency response teams are continuing to operate, albeit with alterations to existing practices.

Fernie Search and Rescue (SAR) remains operational although the team is taking extra precautions to limit the risk of spreading the virus. According to Simon Piney, head of Fernie SAR, any technician who is exhibiting even the slightest of symptoms is being asked to stay home.

Furthermore, all general and specialist trainings have been cancelled in an effort to practice social distancing. Medical protocols have also been revised to account for increased protective measures for responders, including greater biohazard awareness both during and after responses, as well as risk assessments of patients to determine if responders need to self isolate after exposure during calls.

“Every time we respond we are likely to have to take responders out of action for a few weeks. We have three helicopter rescue pilots in the valley and it is very difficult to self distance in a helicopter on a medical response call. A few rescues and we will potentially diminish our response capability dramatically, and that could be disastrous for the next person needing a backcountry rescue after that. I guess our message, now more than ever is to play safe,” said Piney.

Piney recognized the need to take advantage of the outdoors in order to stay sane during these times of uncertainty. This being said, he urged backcountry users to make increasingly conservative decisions when it comes to activity, terrain choice, and risk taking in order to avoid overloading the already strained B.C. healthcare system. This includes understanding the current avalanche risk on Fernie Alpine Resort, and respecting management’s request to not tour up the hill as it may pose a hazard to any workers still up there.

The RCMP also continue to provide policing services to maintain community safety, while working closely with health agencies at all levels in an effort to best monitor and respond to the virus.

Dwayne McDonald is the acting commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP. He has offered assurances that the B.C. RCMP employs a number of procedures and protocols to best deal with the pandemic in a way that reduces risk to team members and the communities they serve.

“As an employer, we are also here to support all our employees. We continue to provide employees with regular updates, implement prevention measures within the workplace, and are supporting telework options. At this time, for everyone, education on this matter is so important. By increasing employee awareness around proper hygiene etiquette and health protocols we can do our part during this health emergency,” said McDonald.

The Elk Valley RCMP is also taking precautions in response to the worldwide pandemic. According to Constable Debra Katerenchuk with the Elk Valley RCMP, there are several temporary changes being implemented.

“All front counter services including but not limited to civilian fingerprinting services, criminal record or police information checks and found property will not be conducted until further notice,” she said in a press release.

Katerenchuk also noted that anyone exhibiting symptoms is asked not to come to the police detachment for any services.

“Our priority continues to be community safety and security and we are taking these measures to help ensure core policing duties will not be impacted,” she said. “We appreciate your continued support and understanding.”

Provincial measures across police departments in B.C. include police officers and personnel being debriefed about required safety measures when interacting with at risk individuals, including how, where, and when to use personal protective equipment should they be exposed to the infection.

“These are truly unprecedented times. We are asking you for patience and understanding. And more importantly, we are asking for your support. We are all members of the community and all of us and our loved ones are being affected by this global pandemic,” said McDonald. “Everyone has a role to play in response to mitigating this health issue. We are committed to ensuring that the B.C. RCMP will be there when British Columbians need us. Public safety is our priority. As our province takes measures to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we thank the public for their mindfulness and cooperation.”

Services continue to run as usual at the Fernie Fire Department, though some alterations have been made to better protect against the spread of the virus.

“Fernie is fortunate for a community of this size to have invested in developing a fire rescue service that includes both career firefighters and an amazing auxiliary firefighter group,” said Michael Boronowski, chief administrative officer for the City of Fernie. “The team continues to respond to emergencies, but we’ve obviously had to adapt with additional safe work procedures and additional personal protective equipment, and have additional screening of staff to reduce the risk of spread should anyone contract COVID-19.”

According to Boronowski, operations are ongoing with support from mutual aid partners, the regional district, and the province through Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre (PREOC). The City of Fernie has also activated their Emergency Operations Centre, and are preparing for where this situation may lead through creating contingency plans.



editor@thefreepress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The RDEK is accepting applications for the CBT’s Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs. File Photo)
CBT’s Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs accept proposals

Sparwood reminds residents to apply for the grants prior to Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.
Closing the border not viable: Wilks

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks said shutting B.C. just wasn’t possible

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Shoreacres resident flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

The trails at Sparwood Heights are groomed by volunteers of the Sunset Ridge Ski Society (SRSS). (Photo contributed by the SRSS)
Sparwood cross-country club reports record membership

The SRSS has 180 members signed up for the 2020-21 season

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Basil Fuller. Photo: Watershed Productions
Missing Voices: Touchstones museum profiles underrepresented groups

Touchstones Nelson interviewed 15 people about their experiences living here

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Screenshot from video.
2 students arrested in assault of transgender girl at Lower Mainland school

Mother says daughter was targeted because of how she identifies

Most Read