Vancouver courting volunteer corps for natural disasters 0
Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks to reporters about the Vancouver Volunteer Corps Wednesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)
Vancouver is recruiting as many as 1,500 volunteers over the next four years to serve as the city's eyes and ears during natural disasters and large-scale events.
Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Wednesday hundreds of volunteers might have made a difference at last year's Stanley Cup riot, although he admitted they couldn't have prevented the mayhem from unfolding.
Vancouver Volunteer Corps members will serve as community ambassadors during civic events, answering questions and alerting authorities of any potential dangers. But they're also expected to administer first aid and inform emergency crews of any hazards they spot if a natural disaster strikes.
"This is a key piece for us to ensure that we have many citizens who know what to do when the big one hits, and can step up and support all of our first responders," Robertson said, adding the program was inspired by the ubiquitous blue-jacketed volunteers at the 2010 Olympics.
Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston stressed the volunteers will not take on tasks performed by police or firefighters, but will simply assist the community when first responders are overwhelmed in a major emergency.
Vancouver's emergency management department, and fire and rescue services will jointly manage the program.
The VVC is budgeted for $25,000 this year, which includes $18,500 for start-up costs. The price tag covers training, water bottles and uniforms for volunteers.
But the city will not be on the hook for any additional insurance costs. Provincial legislation covers those risks in an emergency, while civic events already take out insurance to cover any mishaps that may befall volunteers.
Furthermore, the city is also seeking 100 volunteers by the end of 2013 to undergo advance training for its Vancouver Emergency Response Team. Unlike other volunteers, members of VERT will be subject to a criminal record check.
Deputy fire chief Mark Engler said the advance group will receive additional instructions in radio communications as well as in assessing the dangers of any buildings affected by a natural disaster. He emphasized these volunteers would not enter dangerous sites.
"They're strictly (there) to walk the streets of their own communities and report in on what they see."
The first wave of VVC members donned blue golf shirts and hit Vancouver's West End last Saturday for the Celebration of Lights where 35 volunteers directed crowds, answered questions and alerted police to any dubious behaviour.
Anyone interested in joining VVC can dial 311 to sign up.