In a media release issued late in the workday on Friday, Dec. 20, the City of Revelstoke announced they are cancelling the current emergency program coordinator’s contract when it expires at the end of 2013.
The notice said Lyle Huntley, the new Director of Corporate Administration and Communications, would take on the emergency coordinator’s work starting in 2014.
City Chief Administrative Officer Tim Palmer cited cost-saving efforts as the reason why they’re replacing a private contractor with a newly-hired city employee. The media release didn’t provide any figures. (It’s embedded below.)
In a brief statement, the Palmer thanked current contractor for his service.
Revelstoke resident Simon Hunt served as the part-time contract emergency program coordinator for Revelstoke and its surrounding area.
In an interview with the Times Review in June of 2013, Hunt explained that his duties are centred on planning and coordinating for disaster scenarios. He creates turnkey systems and procedures that can be implemented in the event of disasters like floods, interface wildfires, disasters on the highway, railway disasters, and mass-casualty incidents like the Turbo Hill avalanche disaster in 2010.
In addition to developing and maintaining community emergency plans, his contract position responsibilities included liaising with staff and external agencies, providing training and exercise to staff and volunteers, developing volunteer programs, assisting with emergency operations and providing finance and administration duties on behalf of the program.
In a presentation to Revelstoke City Council in August, Hunt explained his progress setting up the new Revelstoke and Area Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), which is located at the Revelstoke Airport.
*** The PowerPoint of that presentation is embedded below ***
He’s filled the room with binders and work plans that would be given to staff and volunteers, presenting each with simple instructions for complex disaster scenarios. He also upgraded telecommunication and computer systems, and set up back-up power.
This enables them to conduct evacuations, register evacuees and provide necessities, for example. His planning work enables staff to coordinate with regional disaster programs, serve as a communications centre and coordinate with partner agencies.
Hunt has over 20 years of experience in on-the-ground emergency management with the federal government. That includes experience as National Park Warden with highway and mountain rescue experience, and in seasonal wildfire management. He has served as an instructor in emergency leadership and incident command systems (or ICS).
In a June, 2013 interview with the Revelstoke Times Review, Hunt said some of the highlights of his career in emergency management so far have been helping run Parks Canada’s largest fire management system in the Northwest Territories, and serving in a senior position with Emergency Management B.C. during the 2010 Olympics, making sure the games were ready for any disasters.
Hunt also served as a member of the Revelstoke Community Wildfire Protection Committee.
In June, Hunt said the Revelstoke and Area Emergency Management Program was still “young” after only being around for about five years.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Hunt said. “There is always room for improvement when it comes to people’s safety.”
The context of our June interview was the aftermath of the Alberta flooding.
Hunt said himself and regional emergency coordinators were extremely concerned about the forecast precipitation for the Revelstoke area. With their access to advanced weather data and meteorologists’ interpretations, they were aware of the dangerous weather pattern bearing down on the region days in advance. And it was forecast to overrun Revelstoke.
“We were one step away from opening our emergency operation centre,” Hunt said. “The day before the rains arrived, we learned the weather pattern had switched.”
Hunt’s 12 years of experience in the Revelstoke area, and extensive contacts in the regional emergency community potentially averted a serious incident related to the June flooding in the region. Noting the impending precipitation, Hunt warned Parks Canada about the situation five days before the flash flooding hit the Heather Slide area. (The perennial mudslide area often cuts off the Trans-Canada Highway.)
“They were able to resource up and use heavy equipment to clear out their [slide] catchment area,” Hunt explained to Revelstoke City Council in August. “Which meant when we received our rain, the Trans-Canada Highway was able to remain open, allowing for several thousand transport trucks and travellers to make it through.” The highway did eventually close, but not before being cut off to the east. The action prevented thousands from getting stranded between two closures.
Hunt said that flooding is a top disaster concern for the EOC. He also hoped to coordinate a wildfire exercise involving evacuations within three years.
It’s unclear if new administration and communications director Lyle Huntley, who will now oversee the program, has experience in emergency management; due to the late timing of the media release, it wasn’t possible for the Times Review to follow up with city officials for an interview before the weekend.
Here is the City of Revelstoke’s Dec. 20 media release announcing the cancellation of the Revelstoke Emergency Program coordinator’s contract: