The following information has been provided by BC Ferries’ Marine Superintendent as guidance on the protocols to be followed in the event of a major fire or incident on Gabriola.
BC Ferries’ default position is to maintain the normal ferry schedule unless they are instructed by Emergency Services to do otherwise. The normal schedule is already known to all of the emergency services and to most island residents.
BC Ferries’ Operations Centre in Victoria is staffed 24/7 and is their primary point of contact for all emergency authorities. From there, BC Ferries has the ability to mobilise resources to support needs of the emergency services, though it should be recognised that like most organisations, BC Ferries’ resource levels are at their lowest overnight, when crew members may need to be mobilised unexpectedly. In emergency situations, BC Ferries aims to provide an effective response within the resources they have available to them.
In the event of a major incident, BC Ferries would likely receive direction from Emergency Management BC (EMBC) that a local state of emergency was being declared and EMBC would issue direction to BC Ferries to work with local officials on how to prioritize service. In those circumstances BC Ferries would follow the direction of the emergency authorities, and those authorities would, in turn, be dependent on BC Ferries to advise on what response they are able to provide, and on any risks associated with that response.
The question of whether or not BC Ferries would be able to transport private vehicles in an emergency response situation would be a matter for the emergency authorities to determine. BC Ferries will prioritise life over assets, but recognises that the ability to move vehicles assists the movement of people on both sides. Normal practice is, however, to take foot passengers on first.
BC Ferries points out that the emergency authorities would likely ask them to suspend travel to the island for anyone other than emergency responders in the event of a major incident on the island. This means that family members already off island may not be able to return until the emergency response is concluded.
This advice will be updated with any further information received from BC Ferries.