The Cariboo Regional District’s manager of communications has been recognized for her efforts during the 2017 wildfires.
Emily Epp, along with Tim Conrad who was contracted by the CRD during the summer and the fall, received 2018 Canadian Public Relations Society’s Shield of Public Service Awards.
During the presentation of their awards on May 28 in Charlottetown, P.E.I, Epp and Conrad were praised for their tireless efforts over the course of the 77-day response and the six-week public consultation process that followed.
When asked what sticks out in her mind about the wildfires, Epp told the Tribune it was July 15 — the day Williams Lake was evacuated.
“For a lot of us working at the Emergency Operations Centre, it meant we were evacuating our own families and friends,” Epp said. “And since we were now working in an evacuated area, we ended up sleeping in the CRD office for a few nights.”
It was intense, but brought the team closer together, she added.
A public meeting in Wildwood where people were “gracious,” and “kind after all they had been through and after having been evacuated for so long,” also stands out.
“Seeing the community spirit and determination in the Cariboo throughout the emergency was inspiring,” she added.
Eyeing the future, Epp said she learned so much through the experience of the wildfires.
“We learned a lot as an organization, because we had such a long period of time when our EOC was activated, that we were able to make improvement as we went.”
Receiving a “lot” of helpful feedback from the public afterwards has helped the CRD to make some changes, she noted, adding it has helped her feel more prepared for next time.
On a personal note, Epp said she’s learned about steps she needs to take to be resilient for her own mental health and well- being.
“Being part of an emergency response takes a lot out of you, even more than I think you realize at first, and I recognized that I need to take personal action, like going to counselling and talking to my doctor, so that I can be personally prepared and resilient no matter what the future holds.”
Epp said she encourages everyone, first responders, and residents, to take action for themselves and talk about what they are feeling with trusted people, especially with the one-year anniversary and another wildfire season fast approaching.
Conrad lives in Grand Prairie, Alta. where he continues to work a a communications consultant.
They were nominated for the awards by two of their colleagues who are both communication professionals in Northern B.C., Epp said.