Below are sample guidelines for ESS responders when working in a RC, which were adapted from the policies and procedures developed by the City of Richmond, North Shore Emergency Management Office, City of Vancouver (2010).
Security of evacuees’ belongings is the responsibility of the evacuees. Recommend that valuables be locked in evacuees’ cars and out of sight. If that is not possible, keep valuable items with them.
It is appropriate to call 911 in the event:
- An event that involves an immediate threat to person or property: screams, attacks, gunshots, fire, accident with injuries or any other medical emergency
- A substantive, in-progress crime. This includes fights, break and enters (if there is a suspect on scene) or a report of an impaired driver
- A serious crime that has just occurred (e.g., sexual assault or robbery)
- A suspicious circumstance that may indicate an immediate criminal act (e.g., prowler, vandal)
Take note of the suspect/individual’s descriptors:
- Hair/eye colour
- Distinguishing features
- Name (if known)
- Vehicle descriptions/plate (if used)
- Weapon (if used)
- Suspected drug/alcohol/mental health issues
Please note that when you call 911, they will ask you the following: full name, date of birth, address and contact numbers. It is for the file and will not be divulged to the suspect/public.
Call the appropriate non-emergency number for police/fire ambulance for all events not described above, but still require emergency personnel attendance, examples include:
- Reporting a crime with no suspect (e.g., theft)
- Reporting a crime with suspect, but suspect is not on the scene (e.g., fraud)
- Reporting a serious crime with suspect, but with a lengthy delay (e.g., assault that occurred last night)
- Non-emergency in-progress (e.g., drug use)
- On-going crime issues or crimes that are not in-progress (e.g., graffiti or ongoing drug dealing with no suspect on scene)
Evacuees can register at the Registration table. Registration is strongly recommended but not required, as it assists the ESS responders to meet evacuees’ needs. Keep registration information confidential.
In addition to registration, ensure that evacuees sign in and sign out when they come and go from the facility. The primary reason for requiring sign in/out is for the safety and security of the evacuees. It allows staff to know that those in the facility belong there and also provides for accountability of the evacuees should the facility need to be evacuated. In some areas, sign in/out is a required by the local fire departments in order to keep track of who is in the building.
Children/Youth Separated from Their Caregivers
Ensure that unattended children have appropriate supervision and care at the RC until they can be reunited with their family or until a social worker from the provincial/territorial children’s services office (in BC, it’s the Ministry of Children and Family Development [MCFD]) makes an alternative plan. Children/youth may arrive at a RC unaccompanied by their parents or other caregivers – advise your supervisor, who will consult with the RC Manager and/or the ESSD, who may contact the provincial/territorial children’s services office since they have the legal responsibility for unattended children (anyone under the age of 19; in BC, call the Ministry’s 24-hour After Hours Office for assistance: 310-1234 – no area code needed). All unattended children are to be registered with name, birth date, address and the name of parents or caregivers. The ESS file should be marked “restricted” – only social workers are responsible for releasing information regarding unattended children.
Children Under 13
A separate space within the RC should be set aside for child care. This space should be sufficiently open to allow outside observation. At all times there should be a minimum of two licensed and qualified child care providers looking after the children. If children arrive under the care of a teacher or day care provider these persons are expected to remain with the children at the facility. Children can only be released to their parents, adult siblings, foster parents, or legal guardians – not to neighbours, friends of the family, or other relatives. Check ID before releasing a child to the care of an adult.
If a caregiver must leave, first ask for confirmation regarding who has the authority to pick up the child.
Youth Aged 13 to 18
Adult support is required but ongoing supervision is not mandatory. Care should be provided in an area sufficiently open to allow outside observation. Youth may be encouraged to become volunteers. If a youth is a client of the provincial/territorial children’s services office, a social worker should be involved. Youth are to be encouraged to remain at the RC but if they are determined to leave, responders should not attempt to stop them. If a youth leaves the centre, responders should attempt to learn where they are planning to go and how to reach them.
A social worker from the provincial/territorial children’s services office should be requested for assistance. This social worker can generally assist in interviewing distressed children or help find childcare resources to augment RC staff.
Children/Youth – Supervision
Parents are required to supervise their children/youth at all times. Children may not be left in the RC by their parents unless there are qualified and licensed child care workers on site. Responders can only look after children for short periods of time while their parents are completing paperwork. If no child care facilities are available, parents must take their children with them when they leave the RC. If children have been left in the facility inappropriately, talk to the parents upon their return and ensure they understand their responsibility for supervision of their children at all times.
Children/Youth – Suspected Abuse
Everyone who has a reason to believe that a child/youth has been or is likely to be physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited, or needs protection, is legally responsible to report the matter to a child protection worker. Notify your supervisor, who will inform the RC Manager and/or ESSD, who may then contact the provincial/territorial children’s services office and determine what support can be provided to the family. The provincial/territorial children’s services office will do a further assessment to determine what support is available.
Everyone within a RC is to be treated with respect and dignity, without discrimination. There is equal access for all. Conflict between evacuees need to be dealt with immediately. Notify your supervisor and security. If you are not able to de-escalate safely, call the police.
Drugs & Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are not allowed in the RC. Keep in mind that this is a stressful time for evacuees and people may have had a drink or two and are not handling it well. Always ask for First Aid to assist, and assess the situation. There may be medical issues such as diabetes that may seem like an alcohol or drug issue. If the evacuee is quiet and can be helped to a cot there may be no need for anything else to be done except to remind the person of the no alcohol rule. If the evacuee is belligerent, ask security to assist. It may be necessary to ask the person to leave or to call the police to attend. Discuss the RC rules with the evacuee to ensure it does not happen again. If this involves children speak to the parents to have them stop this behaviour.
First aid is an important element of a RC and should be available at all times. It is expected that the RC will do a certain amount of triage of evacuees as they are being interviewed and that evacuees with medical issues or special needs will be directed elsewhere.
Health regulations do not make it possible for food donations to be accepted in a RC facility from the general public. If people show up on site with food donations, explain, as sensitively as possible that the food cannot be accepted. If people insist on leaving the food, accept it and it can be thrown out on site. Advise your supervisor, who will advise the RC Manager and/or the ESS Director that this is happening so that the EOC or the municipal hall (if the EOC is not open) can ensure that appropriate media messaging is going out.
Restaurants are Foodsafe certified, therefore, food donations may be accepted from restaurants. Another option if restaurants want to contribute, is ask them for vouchers so that residents can be sent to the restaurant and/or take their information and if food needs to be ordered, it can be ordered from that restaurant. Ensure that the restaurant is not asking for compensation before accepting the food or vouchers.
Accurate, timely, and appropriate communications can help support the recovery of those affected by an emergency/disaster. Below are some examples of RC communication techniques and how they can be used to help the RC operate properly.
Bulletin boards are a method of communicating with both the evacuees and staff. For evacuees, they can be used to post information such as news releases, messages from friends and family, and lists of available resources such as housing. Staff bulletin boards can be placed in the staff break area. They can be used for many of the same purposes: news releases, notes from friends and family, staff schedules, thank-you notes, and operational memos.
Operational information may be communicated to staff by all levels of the RC management team. This information may be a directive, a thank-you for a job well done, or a staff schedule. These memos may be posted on a bulletin board or delivered in a staff meeting.
Shift Change Briefings
It is very important that the staff coming on shift be aware of what has taken place on the previous shifts. This is especially important in the Security and RC Manager functions. Each function should schedule about 30 minutes of overlap as the shift changes. This allows staff from both shifts to communicate with each other.
Communications with your supervisor must be two-way; otherwise, the relationship will eventually break down. Your supervisor will hold a staff meeting at least once per shift. Even if meetings last for only 15 minutes, they still provide a chance to communicate, relieve stress, and resolve problems.
There will be times you will be asked to perform duties you have no experience in. Sometimes your supervisor will hold training sessions on the spot.
When needed, translation services may be provided to evacuees, if available. Usually, a youth or teen within the immediate family, other evacuees, or staff on site will have translation skills. The ESS Translation Guide (see “Tools” section of Resources) which provides translations for typical questions in various languages, can be used as well. As a last resort, a request can be made to the provincial/territorial ESS office (in BC, it’s Emergency Management BC [EMBC]) to cover the costs of hiring a translator.
News media representatives may visit the RC. Politely but firmly direct the media to speak with the Information Officer or ESSD who may or may not be on site. If off site, provide a location and/or contact number. All media inquiries are to go through the Information Officer. If media are insistent that they wish to speak to evacuees, advise them that you will ask evacuees if they would like to speak to the media – outside the RC facility. If media are resistant to leaving, call security or the police if necessary.
A RC is a microcosm of society; behaviors that exist in the community will also exist in the RC. Expect to see behaviors related to mental illness, substance abuse, etc. Reported medically related information should be noted on the evacuee’s registration card.
A Resident Behaving Strangely
Refer to Emotional Support unit if activated. If not activated, advise your supervisor who will contact the RC Manager and/or the ESS Director to request assistance.
High standards for sanitation and hygiene are required to prevent the spread of disease in a RC. If viruses such as H1N1, Norwalk or norovirus are a concern at the time RC is being set up, it will be crucial to have health authority staff involved in the operation right from the start especially at the RC as it should be possible to screen people who have infectious diseases out of the ESS system when they arrive at a RC to register. Regular hand washing and sanitation procedures should be followed to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
With the exception of registered assistance animals, pets are generally not allowed inside the RC. It is the evacuees’ responsibility to make provisions for their pet(s) prior to entering the RC. If evacuees need help locating a kennel or making other arrangements for their pet(s), direct them to the Pet Services area in the RC.
Facilities will only be opened up if they are suitable and have power. Very few RCs have back up power. Responders would only be asked to respond if it is safe or if safe transport can be arranged.
Privacy – Social Media
Evacuees and responders must respect the privacy of others and limit any Facebook, Twitter and other social networking and internet blog posts to their personal experience only. It is not permitted to document and post the experience of other evacuees or responders.
Security is an important element of a RC and will be required for security patrols of the building and perimeter including parking area, traffic control, access to the facility, fire prevention, and control. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to request support from police or from a security agency. Priorities as the facility is activated include:
- Directing traffic
- Directing movement into the facility
- Identifying and clearing fire exits so they are unobstructed/easy to access
- Establishing security patrols and night watches
Continuing priorities include:
- Establishing regular security controls
- Ensuring security regulations are adhered to
- Maintaining security, fire and overnight fire watches (see the Security Function Checklist in the RCOG, for further details)
- The Security person will need to have the list of all evacuees who have signed in with him/her at all times.
- The Security person will need to review each room where there may be people and must have the facility map with assembly areas, fire extinguishers, and exits labeled.
Ensure an outside area is designated for smoking. Smoking is permitted in designated outside smoking areas only.
Standards of Conduct
A list of expectations for evacuees should be posted in a prominent area. The Standards of Conduct sheet, sometimes referred to as the Evacuee Information Sheet, can be found in the RCOG.
If a minor is involved, address the issues with his/her parent(s) and make it their responsibility to stop the behaviour. Stress that this behaviour cannot continue and cannot reoccur. If necessary, contact security and/or the police. It is important to ensure the safety of your colleagues and evacuees and to make it obvious that we are aware of the behaviour and will address it.
Volunteering to Help
Encourage evacuees to help in the facility – there are many jobs that do not require special training. Evacuees who help maintain the RC can develop a sense of belonging and may take more responsibility for their actions.
Responders will be informed, educated, and supported in order to maximize their effectiveness as ESS responders while minimizing the risk of physical and emotional fatigue.
If you are having difficulty with your workload, please advise your RC supervisor. Worker care disaster response can result in working long hours helping people of all ages to understand and manage the many reactions, feelings, and challenges triggered by these stressful circumstances. ESS responders need to look after themselves in order to be able to help others. (See the Worker Care)