Map of Cortes Island

The Cortes Island Evacuation Plan 

The Cortes Island Evacuation Plan is complete.

 “I am just begging every Cortes Islander to pick up and go through the plan before all this happens, so everybody is aware,” said Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Protective Services Coordinator Shaun Koopman. “Please don’t wait till the last minute to educate yourself about evacuations and emergency support services and how you’re going to be notified and whether or not you have insurance and all those important evacuation considerations.”

David Stanley – The Cortes Island Ferry via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Area population estimate – courtesy Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

An island wide evacuation (less likely)

While the most likely scenarios involve only a small part of Cortes, Koopman said there are situations where a full island evacuation could be called for and it is his business to prepare for the unlikely. 

For example, a typhoon hit the West Coast in 1964. What if the weather patterns showed an event of this proportion heading for the Discovery Islands, but not touching most of the surrounding area or the Lower Mainland.

“We would try to evacuate a whole entire island for that,” said Koopman.

(Another potential scenario is an island wild wildfire, which has not occured in the historic record – see below)

Estimates for people with Boats – courtesy Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

Half of the Cortes Island residents responding to the survey stated that they have access to boats.

“If somebody wanted to charter a private helicopter to come in and take them, we wouldn’t really be in a position to stop them from doing so. So at any point in time, if somebody wanted to get on their boat and go to Heriot Bay or Lund, they could do that.”

If a full island evacuation ever occurs, all available resources would be summoned to take everyone off the island and the principle destination points are Campbell River, Quadra Island and Lund. 

Responses for people needing assistance – -courtesy Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

The anticipated Mega-quake

There will be no mass evacuation when the long anticipated mega-quake occurs because all of the surrounding communities will be affected. 

As Koopman explained in a previous interview, “If an earthquake hits, there won’t be anywhere to evacuate to. People will be staying in their neighbourhoods.”

Cortes Island residents should already have a grab and stay kit prepared because they may be waiting for weeks before contact with the outside world is restored.

Estimate for people with pets -courtesy Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

A partial evacuation (most likely)

The most likely evacuation scenario involves something like a wildfire. There has not been a fire larger than 10 hectares on Cortes Island since 1950, when the historical record began.

Historic fires – Courtesy Cortes Island Wildfire Protection Plan (2011)

Affected residents will probably be moved to one of the island’s five designated reception centres: 

  • Cortes Island School
  • Linnaea Farm Education Building
  • Gorge Hall 
  • Mansons Hall
  • Klahoose Administration Building

“We would let them know which one to register at depending on the time that it happens and the amount of volunteers that are available,” explained Koopman.

Vehicle estimate – courtesy Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

How will people know? 

  • Neighbourhoods that have set up their own Emergency Preparedness programs (NEPP), like Potlatch Road, will contact everyone within their network
  • The SRD’s Connect Rocket program sends emergency text or voice messages to everyone who signs up for this system. 
  • Cortes Radio (CKTZ 89.5 FM) is part of the emergency communications network and could be broadcasting messages from the SRD within a half hour of receiving them.
  • If the internet is still working, posts will go up on social media and more factually reliable outlets like the Tideline and Strathcona Emergency Program website.  
  • The RCMP and Campbell River Search and Rescue with go door to door, but are coming from off-island and will only be able to reach a limited area knocking. 
Example of capacity chart – Taken from the Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

What happens at the reception areas? 

All evacuees can register with emergency support services that can provide for their immediate needs.

“That starts the process of being able to refer them to agencies further down the line to help connect them with different resources, such as maybe the John Howard Society, if they were looking for a longer-term housing option or the Red Cross for a longer term support. And initially we would provide vouchers for food, clothing, and accommodation if authorized to do so by the province,” explained Koopman.

The province will probably not pay for clothing if there was two days prior notice of an evacuation, because people had time to pack. 

Example of floor plan (Linnaea Farm)– Taken from the Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2021

Cortes Island Emergency Support Services

As there are currently only eight people in Cortes Island Emergency Support Services (ESS), the Quadra Island ESS will need to help. 

“We’re always looking for people to volunteer with emergency support services,” said Koopman.

Seeing a familiar faces is reassuring, when disaster strikes.

“You can learn more about ESS by contacting me at preparedness@srd.ca and, as always, just encourage residents to write to me with any ideas, suggestions, concerns that they have, whether it’s evacuation or any type of emergency preparedness.”

Other contact information for Shaun Koopman: 

Top photo credit: Map used on cover of the Cortes Island Evacuation Plan, Winter 2010 – drawn by Noah Davidson 2010

This program was broadcast on Tuesday, December 7th and the written version added December 8, 2021.

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