There have been some questions regarding whether the Athabasca Regional Multiplex will become a reception centre to accommodate those evacuated due to wildfires. The following information is provided to help everyone understand what is required before a reception centre is put in place.
With AU moving its convocation, will a reception centre now be set up at the Multiplex?
The decision to move convocation to Red Deer does help free up some time and space at Multiplex should a reception centre be required. However, this decision hasn’t been made as yet. Slave Lake is currently under an 8 hour evacuation notice, and due to the nature of the fire, there is still uncertainly whether a reception centre will be required.
While the Athabasca/Boyle region could support a reception centre, there are other options outside of our region that could provide appropriate levels of support including High Prairie, Grande Prairie, Peace River which are located west of the fires. These communities weren’t an option during the 2011 Slave Lake fire due to the fire’s location and direction of travel. At that time the only safe route for evacuation was due east.
Who decides on where reception centres are set-up?
There has been some confusion around this question. It needs to be made clear that the decision to set up reception centre is not solely made by the Town or the County. Doing so requires much more than just having a large arena available.
There are many resources required to set up a reception centre and they all must be coordinated through the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). Transportation, medical and mental health supports, reception centre staff, equipment such as cots and bedrolls, hygiene items, and financial support from the province, all have to be in place. There are also coordinated efforts to provide clothing and food which requires the ongoing support of local people, businesses and organizations to be a success.
All of these things have to be considered and coordinated by AEMA to be effective in helping people who are displaced.
How is Athabasca County assisting?
Athabasca County is offering support to the MD of Opportunity as its staff and community work to operate a Reception Centre in that community. Their presence helped provide a break to those staff who have been working long hours assisting evacuees. The reception centre helps register evacuees, locate a place of accommodation, and provide information to people as they make their way to other parts of the province as decided upon by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
On Thursday, May 30th, Athabasca County helped to organize and transport supplies to Calling Lake (diapers, medicine, food and other consumables). A pizza supper was also organized and transported to the community to give those running a kitchen in the community a bit of a break. Our thanks to all local businesses who assisted in making this meal possible on short notice.
Ongoing support of all efforts to assist evacuees will continue.