City of Vancouver aims to recruit hundreds for new volunteer corps
The City of Vancouver hopes to recruit between 1,000 to 1,500 people for a newly launched volunteer corps tasked with helping out during major civic events and emergency situations.
The Vancouver Volunteer Corps will be managed jointly by the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service and the city’s Office of Emergency Management. Volunteers will go through formal training to assist during large events and potential natural disasters.
At a press conference outside Vancouver City Hall today (August 1), Mayor Gregor Robertson said the idea stems from the successful use of volunteers during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and recommendations made in the independent report on the Stanley Cup riot last year.
“We saw the power of having the Blue Jackets at the games, and we also saw the gap with some of our large events since then,” Robertson told reporters. “Certainly with the June 15th Stanley Cup riot, I think that many said if we had had hundreds of volunteers on the streets helping to look after things, that that might have made a difference.”
The volunteer corps was initiated in a motion approved by city council following the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The primary goal of the program, according to the mayor, is preparedness for potential natural disasters such as a major earthquake.
“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 who are going to be undoubtedly besieged if there’s a big natural disaster here,” he said.
Deputy fire chief Mark Engler said the group will act as the “eyes and ears” for fire and rescue services in the event of a major disaster.
He said the city will also be launching a Vancouver Emergency Response Team (VERT) that will receive advanced training in community response, radio communications, First Aid, and assessment.
The city's target is to sign up 100 people to the team by the end of 2013, while the general corps of 1,000 to 1,500 volunteers is expected to be recruited over the next four years.
Engler stressed that the volunteers will not be taking on roles performed by emergency services.
“These people are not designated to go into buildings, or on dangerous sites, they’re strictly to walk the streets of their own communities, and then report in on what they see,” he said.
The team’s first role has been helping out during the Honda Celebration of Light festival, where about 35 volunteers have been in attendance.
The initial cost to set up the volunteer corps in this year’s budget was $25,000, to cover expenses including T-shirts and IDs, according to city staff.
Members of the public interested in signing up are being asked to call 3-1-1 for more information or contact firstname.lastname@example.org