Dave Bone

Red Cross takes its disaster response on the road

NANAIMO – Red Cross mobile disaster response rig displayed in Nanaimo.

The Canadian Red Cross Society is on the road to rapid disaster response.

Red Cross Disaster Response Vehicles are being fabricated and deployed to regions throughout B.C., allowing the society to quickly move in and provide basic comfort, food and hygiene in areas where fire, floods, earthquakes or other catastrophes happen and populations need help.

Four of the rigs consist of a pickup truck, a command module unit that can provide office space, WiFi, cellphone charging and other services, plus a trailer packed with enough sleeping cots, hygiene supplies, blankets and other necessities to serve 200 people.

One of the rigs, which is now based in Burnaby, was on display in Nanaimo Tuesday after being shown at the Emergency Support Services Conference in Campbell River on the weekend.

“This is a brand new venture for the Red Cross,” said Derrick Harvey, Red Cross emergency response team leader for the North Island. “Last year we manufactured the first one and it’s stationed in Kelowna.”

Two more units will be completed, one to be based on the Island and one for Prince George.

Each unit, including truck, trailer, command unit and supplies, costs about $135,000.

Harvey hopes to have the Island unit stationed north of the Malahat.

“The first one was put in service last year and it came off the assembly line and went into service in the southern B.C. forest fires,” Harvey said. “The trailer, which is the 200-bed mobile shelter, was stationed in Trail and the command module was used as an office from our command position in Midway where we looked after people from there.”

The units, which are built in Ladner, B.C., allow the Red Cross to move relief personnel and supplies into disaster areas quickly or pre-deploy to regions where fires or floods can be predicted to happen at certain times of the year.

“To be perfectly blunt, if a big earthquake hit Vancouver Island tomorrow … you know, between Port Hardy and Campbell River there’s 200 bridges. You only need one of them to be out and we’re screwed, but we can still preposition this in an area we think might be the hardest hit for the more predictable disasters,” Harvey said.

The units are designed to be self-contained and provide communication and power where utilities are out of commission.

“We have our own WiFi. We’ve got our own power supply,” said Dave Bone, temporary lead disaster manager for Nanaimo. “We can run on solar or run on batteries. When the power’s out we can park in the bush and still talk to people.”

The units, designed for a service life of about 25 years, even supply power to recharge cellphones.

All four units will be in service by early 2017, but the society is looking for private donors and sponsors, especially for about $80,000, to pay for the truck to be deployed to the Island.

For more information about the Disaster Response Vehicle program or to become a sponsor, please contact Cheryl Bosley, philantropy manager, at cheryl.bosley@redcross.ca.

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