The Gitga’at Emergency Response Team was established in 2015 to combine the emergency services for Hartley Bay under one umbrella organization, with the exception of law enforcement. Hartley Bay is an isolated community without neighboring communities and has limited emergency assistance available from external agencies. This holistic approach to public safety attempts to mitigate emergency incidents of all types that may have a negative impact on the community and its citizens. The goal of this initiative is to increase public safety, increase the internal capacity and self-sufficiency of the community and reduce the dependency on outside resources in times of need.
Services provided by the Gitga’at Emergency Response Team
1. Emergency Preparedness and Response
Emergency preparedness is a community’s ability to plan ahead for foreseeable natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, etc. and also disasters caused by people such a forest fire, plane crash, or an outbreak of a contagious disease, just to name a few. Once our emergency plan was completed, the community began training community members to become the emergency operations centre staff. The role of this group of community members is to assist first responders on the ground dealing with the incident and also to provide them with the resources they need from external agencies. This function is critical in order for the community to acquire those resources in a timely manner and to also track the expenses associated with making that happen in order to recover those expenditures from government agencies that are designed to assist communities experiencing an emergency.
2. Fire Protection
Fire protection services provided by the Gitga’at Volunteer Fire Department is delivered to the community of Hartley Bay in a two-tiered approach. The first tier is through public fire safety education for the school kids and the general public and fire prevention services, such as annual fire safety inspections of buildings. The second tier is fire suppression or firefighting services provided by the volunteers to respond to residential, commercial or interface fires. There are currently 17 community members that volunteer on the Gitga’at Volunteer Fire Department.
3. Emergency Medical Response
The community of Hartley Bay does not have the traditional BC Ambulance services that most communities in British Columbia are fortunate enough to have. The only BC Ambulance service available to the community is through helicopter medi-vac in the event of a patient needing urgent advanced medical attention. This service however is vulnerable to the harsh weather conditions of the Pacific North Coast. The Gitga’at VFD members who are trained to the Red Cross First Responder and Advance Marine First Aid levels provide the first level of emergency medical response in the community. The next level of medical attention is provided by the Gitga’at Nurse’s Clinic once the first responders transport patients to the clinic. If more advanced medical attention is required it is at that point the BC Ambulance medi-vac service is called in.
4. Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM SAR)
Gitga’at volunteers also provide marine search and rescue services for the area surrounding Hartley Bay by operating RCM SAR Station 70. These dedicated community volunteers work closely with the Canadian Coast Guard and currently utilize the vessels owned by the Gitga’at Guardian Watchmen program to assist mariners in distress in the harsh waters of the Pacific Northwest. Emergencies such as vessels running aground, mariners experiencing medical emergencies and vessels lost are common in this remote geographical area of the Pacific. In 2006 the community of Hartley Bay assisted the people that found themselves in the frigid waters following the BC Ferry Queen of the North sinking. This incident brought international attention to Hartley Bay and their history of helping those in need.
Director, Emergency Response Team
Manager, Emergency Response Team
Hartley Bay Band Office:
445 Hayimiisaxaa Way, Hartley Bay, BC VOV 1A0