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Local Hero Awards 2022: Preparation key to emergency response

Bob Beckett is the 2022 Emergency Services Hero
Bob Beckett waves to a child at the Divine Hands Orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Black Press Media file photo)

The West Shore Local Hero Awards are back! You can find this year’s special feature in the March 16 edition of the Goldstream Gazette or online under e-editions. Stay tuned for more on each of this year’s honourees, you will also be able to read their stories online at

The importance of good governance in the face of a disaster was hammered home to Bob Beckett during his first few trips to Haiti.

Beckett, the former chief of Langford Fire Rescue, has made 17 trips to Haiti as part of humanitarian efforts to rebuild two orphanages destroyed by the devastating earthquake that ravaged the poverty-stricken country in 2010.

“What became abundantly clear is the lack of good governance is the Achilles heel of the situation in Haiti,” Beckett explained.

“From an emergency planning standpoint, without good governance, you don’t have the infrastructure, policy, funding, resources and direction to deal with any kind of disaster, man-made or otherwise.”

Since he was elected as a Sooke School District trustee in 2018, Beckett has worked to ensure that governance matters, policies and resources are in place in the event of a disaster.

“As trustees, part of our responsibility involves keeping 11,000 students and 1,200 employees safe,” he said. “The board is responsible for governance matters, policies and the budget and gives direction to staff for strategies for the district to act on, similar to how a municipality functions. A major part of emergency planning is planning for the future. In addition to whatever is happening now, we need to prepare for the effects of climate change.”

Beckett detailed how the school board had never had to deal with a pandemic until COVID-19, and, subsequently, a lot of time has been devoted to preparing for that kind of scenario.

“The same holds true for earthquakes or floods,” Beckett noted. “You can’t be reactive, you have to have a proactive plan in place that can be implemented quickly.”

ALSO READ: On the Ground in Haiti: West Shore lends a hand

“Equally important is having a post-disaster recovery plan in place. It doesn’t matter what befalls us, using an earthquake as a worst-case scenario, we have to be prepared to get the kids back into school as soon as things return to normal.”

The same principles apply in Beckett’s work as a director for the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, where he is the representative for District D, a large area that includes Bamfield, lodges, residences, and the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

“With COVID, supply issues became a real challenge that resulted in food security issues,” he said. “Emergency preparedness covers so many things that people may not be aware of. It goes beyond tsunamis and forest fires to a broad range of issues we need to be prepared for.”

Whatever unfolds in the future, Beckett is adamant we can’t lose sight of the human element that plays such an integral role in how we cope with whatever comes our way.

“There are so many folks throughout the pandemic who have been the true heroes in my mind,” he stressed. “The first responders, support staff, those that went to work in spite of the risk, those who continued to educate our children, those who kept our shelves full. They put their life and families on the back burner in order to serve the greater population in communities across the province and across the country.”

READ MORE: Local heroes

READ MORE: Greater Victoria emergency preparedness

ALSO READ: On the Ground in Haiti: Established orphanage struggles to remain open


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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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