From left, Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques, Emergency and Environmental Services Manager Karla Robison and Ucluelet RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Steve Mancini converse during a community-wide evacuation on Jan. 23. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Ucluelet shakes up emergency services, removes manager, eyes new sirens

District has eliminated Emergency and Environmental Manager position

Ucluelet’s municipal hall is shaking up it’s emergency preparedness procedures and has restructured its management team.

Emergency and Environmental Manager Karla Robison has been let go and the district is hiring a part time contractor to handle its emergency services portfolio while moving environmental services to another department, according to Chief Administrative Officer Mark Boysen.

Robison had been employed with the district since 2012. Ucluelet’s most recent Statement of Financial Information shows she earned $73,267 in 2016.

“She did a lot of excellent work that the district appreciates,” Boysen told the Westerly News. “I know she’ll do well wherever she goes.”

The new Fire and Emergency Services Support contract position is being advertised as a six-month term that will pay $12,480 to the successful applicant. Boysen said the contractor will focus specifically on emergency services and work closely with the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade.

“The priority for us in this position is fire and emergency services and what we’re looking at is options for 2019. Where are we heading down the road? That’s why it’s a contract position,” he said.

He said the change could potentially create full-time jobs within the brigade, which is currently entirely volunteer based, including a possible paid fire chief position.

“We’re a small town and we have limited resources and a certain amount of tax-base,” Boysen said. “We have an amazing volunteer fire team and they’ve built an excellent group. We required some restructuring because I think we could better use the resources for our municipality to make sure they’re being put towards our primary concerns, which is the community safety aspect of things.”

He said the idea to terminate Ucluelet’s Emergency and Environmental Manager position was in place before locals were evacuated from their homes during a Jan. 23 tsunami warning event, which Robison coordinated.

Boysen said another change that’s underway is an upgrade to the community’s tsunami siren system. He said Jan. 23’s event showed that the town’s sole siren, currently located at the Ucluelet Fire Hall, is outdated and additional sirens should be installed.

“There were some concerns about its ability to be able to carry sound across the community and alert everybody,” Boysen said. “It was used that evening and some people heard it and some people didn’t. The winds definitely affected things that night so, I think, it’s seen as something that’s definitely an opportunity for us to make an improvement. It’s an old unit that needs to be upgraded.”

On May 9, Ucluelet borrowed a siren from Port Alberni and trucked it to five different locations in the community to test out potential locations for new sirens. The district reached out to locals for feedback on when and where the siren was heard.

“We thought this was a great way to engage the community on the issue and create discussion and also try out different locations so we could gather data,” Boysen said.

He said the siren was tested at the Whiskey Dock, Seaplane Base Road,Tugwell Fields and Amphitrite Point and over 180 locals responded to the district’s call for feedback.

“We thank the community for their participation. Even when they didn’t hear anything, that was valuable information for us,” he said. “We need to look at that data and see what it looks like and then we can price out some things and some options, look at some scenarios and there’s some expertise that we need to probably pull in to help us; some consultants to see what’s going to be a good fit for Ucluelet.”

He said the district is also working on a map that will show which areas are, or should be, covered by a siren and added that information will be presented to the community in the coming weeks.

“It’s important for the municipality to be continually looking to improve in this area and always try to, within our abilities and within our budget, be able to be as safe as possible and set up systems that can help our residents and our visitors be able to move safely when we have an incident,” Boysen said.

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