Information woes

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

There’s a lot of places to get news of the wildfires online; there’s our website, the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) website, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) website, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) website, the websites of the local radio stations, associated Facebook and/or Twitter pages for all of them, various official and unofficial mapping resources and of course the national media.

However, if you’re not an internet person, getting detailed information can be much more difficult, especially those who aren’t in the area due to evacuations or who live elsewhere but have a cabin or family in the area. Most every week, I’ll have at least one person tell me they’re not on the internet and struggle to get information.

One person even told me someone out of the country called their place of employment to try and find out what was going on. I can tell you people have definitely called us to ask if we could provide them with answers; most of the time we can, but sometimes we also don’t know.

The various organizations involved do have printed information available but that requires people to go pick it up in person, which, if they’re evacuated or don’t live in the area, may not be able to do.

Obviously, if you’re in that situation, the best thing you can do is to call the BC Wildfire Service (for information on fire activity) or the regional authority (for evacuation related information) directly.

That may be easier said than done; the Fire Information Officers for specific fires (those who would best be able to provide detailed answers) switch out about every two weeks; meaning the phone number to call often switches every two weeks. On the district side of things, people, especially seasonal visitors, may not know which district they actually fall under (i.e. CRD, TNRD, District of 100 Mile House).

Even if they do, some of the numbers to call there have changed on occasion as well since the fires started.

The districts and the BC Wildfire Service, along with local officials, have tried to combat this by providing public meetings. This, along with the local newspaper and radio stations (where available) will help keep some up to date but may still not be a solution for those with low mobility or those who are far away. It’s a scary thing to be out there in the “dark.”

Maybe B.C. or Canada should have a general info line that’s available specifically for larger scale emergencies, that’s always the same number (unlike local authorities who, understandably may be forced to switch due to evacuations, not normally have the infrastructure to deal with such issues or whatever other reason). That would make it a lot easier for those who don’t have the internet available.

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