Rick Wall spent about 40 years in the navy, mostly in the regular force, and he retired in 2008, or so he thought. He did another four years in reserves, which ended in 2013.
He also had started helping with Emergency Support Services, which seemed like a natural fit.
“I got to know emergency management because that was my job in the navy,” he says. “I had whole nine months off…. I got used to carrying around a phone with me and being on call.”
As a volunteer with the Campbell River Emergency Support Services, he looks after people in distress in the immediate aftermath of incidents, such as house fires. The focus of ESS, he says, is on those first 72 hours during which they also liaise with the Red Cross, which takes over after three days.
“We do response, they do recovery,” he says. “We’re part of the emergency response.”
This ESS program focuses on getting people the essentials of life – a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your belly – and Wall says the program has set up arrangements with local suppliers, restaurants and hotels to help out.
And this need can arise anytime, such as when Wall and the local ESS team arrived about 2 a.m. when the Quinsam Hotel caught fire in June 2017. There, they arranged for the people to get out of the cold and into short-term accommodations.
As part of his volunteering, Rick gives presentations with grab-and-go bags, pointing out the items every home should have in the event people get the call to leave their homes.
He was one of the founding members of the North Island Emergency Preparedness Society, which was set up nearly 10 years ago to provide an annual training workshop for Emergency Support Services
directors on Vancouver Island. It’s grown and now gets participants from through B.C.
He’s also been seconded to go elsewhere because of wildfires. In the summer of 2017, he was deployed to the B.C. Interior for a 19-day stretch. Initially, this was supposed to be in Prince George at the largest reception centre, but he asked to go to 100 Mile House when he heard about the dire situation there.
However, he expects he will be sticking close to home this summer and be ready to help out, should the need arise.
“At the moment, I’m not planning on going anywhere.”