David Michael Jeff, 67, was reported missing after he evacuated from Williams Lake on Saturday, July 15. His body was found earlier this month in Kamloops. Angie Mindus photo

Editorial: Remember the vulnerable during emergencies

David Jeff a reminder of those who may not be able to advocate for themselves

During the Cariboo Regional District’s recommendation report on the 2017 wildfires, consultant Tim Conrad told the assembled directors, “It’s important to remember there were no lives lost during this disaster.”

As one of the CRD directors gently reminded him, it’s no longer quite true that we can make that claim with the recent discovery of the body of David Jeff in Kamloops.

Jeff was an evacuee from the wildfires and a vulnerable citizen of Williams Lake.

The report lays out over 70 recommendations the CRD can work on in preparation for the next disaster, listing improvements in communications, resources, and notably, how to create a culture of preparedness for the next emergency.

What appears left out, however, is the need to take care of citizens who fall through the cracks.

The report is thorough, well-researched, and the recommendations are in many cases what residents were hoping for in terms of “common sense” solutions to some of the problems and stresses that plagued the emergency.

It stems from months of consultations, in person and online, and reflects that.

The recommendations come from people who were able to access community meetings, who are able to advocate for themselves and stress where improvement was needed from their own experience.

There are many in our communities who are unable to do that for themselves and their experiences are, as a result, likely much less reflected in the report.

While concerns on how to the communicate with the elderly, or those without access to internet or more modern information systems was noted, those who do not have familial support networks, vehicles, or who have prior mental health issues seem missing.

As we all prepare for the next emergency those of us involved need to remember David Jeff and those like him, so that next time we can, truly, make the claim of zero lives lost.

-Williams Lake Tribune

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