Tammie Watson and the rest of the staff and volunteers at the Kelowna Red Cross have prepared emergency supplies for whenever a disaster strikes.

Kelowna Red Cross providing assistance throughout the region

The Kelowna branch is responsible for the southern interior, Kootenays and Yukon

Every three hours, someone in Canada receives support from the Canadian Red Cross.

The Kelowna Red Cross, located on Adams Road, is one of the central hubs for disaster response in British Columbia.  The Kelowna centre provides support for the southern interior, Kootenays and Yukon, whether it be an individual who needs help or an entire community.  With pre-positioned supplies and emergency kits that are ready for use in the event of a fire, flood or other disaster, the staff at the Kelowna building are constantly on alert and ready to assist.

The building on Adams Road is hardly a small one, and it is filled with cots, cleaning supplies, blankets, and all other sorts of disaster response equipment.  However, disaster response isn’t the only thing the Kelowna chapter does.  Kelowna Red Cross is one of the hubs for the Health Equipment Loan program, which lends mobile health equipment to those in need of it.  The program has been running in BC for more than 60 years, lending walkers, wheelchairs and other medical equipment to people in need.

As a non-profit organization, Canadian Red Cross relies heavily on donations, and that is no different in Kelowna.

“The Disaster Response program is one of the biggest programs we try to fundraise for,” said Tammie Watson, Corporate and Appeals Manager.  “The local disaster management program is one we are in high need of community support for in order to continue to run.  It’s volunteer run, and our training programs allow us to get volunteers trained and deployed when needed.  It could be something as small as a flooded house, or it could be an apartment fire, or something as big as the 2003 Kelowna fire.”

The Kelowna centre does receive some grant money from Interior Health to run the Health Equipment Loan program, but it still relies heavily upon donations and volunteer support.  Throughout BC last year, 163,000 pieces of equipment were loaned to 93,000 British Columbians.  As the program continues to expand, so too does the need for more equipment, and it is growing at a rate the Canadian Red Cross can’t keep pace with.

The Kelowna chapter of the Canadian Red Cross doesn’t have a large annual fundraiser, but rather continuously fundraises throughout the year, relying on community support, individual donors and corporate partners.  The support they have received has allowed them to run other programs in addition to its two major ones, such as Respect Ed, which is an anti-bullying campaign, a first aid and water safety program, and an aboriginal outreach program.

Although there are many programs being run out of the Adams Road location, disaster management and equipment loaning have by far the highest costs associated with them.  The disaster response program has a disaster response vehicle and shelter trailer, which when combined cost upwards of $90,000. The Kelowna branch is one of very few in BC to have a vehicle and trailer, and acquiring more is one of the main goals of the Canadian Red Cross in BC.

Having a disaster response vehicle allows the Red Cross to respond to disasters in neighbouring communities, and the shelter trailer can carry emergency supplies for roughly 200 people, giving the Red Cross much more flexibility in its response capabilities.  The Kelowna centre isn’t just prepared to help locally, however, as the pre-made packages at it’s location could be shipped anywhere in Canada if there’s a need.  The Red Cross works closely with municipal, provincial and federal governments, which helps them coordinate and respond as quickly as possible to a disaster.

“People can also phone in if they’ve had something that’s happened at their house,” Watson explained.  “If they’ve had flooding and they didn’t have insurance, we’ll try to work with them on a personal level.  For the most part we’re government related so that we don’t duplicate services, so that we don’t have three organizations providing the same thing.”

To contact the Canadian Red Cross to either make a donation or ask for assistance, call 1-800-418-1111 or visit the Canadian Red Cross location in Kelowna at 124 Adams Road.


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