By Ryan Flaherty – Oak Bay News
Published: December 08, 2011 5:00 PM

Oak Bay has received an international honour for its emergency preparedness program. However, the personal accolades will have to wait.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction named the municipality a global leader in emergency planning. Oak Bay has also been certified as a role model city for its emergency program.

“We’re in a global community now,” said Dave Cockle, Oak Bay’s deputy emergency co-ordinator. “We share disaster risk information with other communities and share experiences with each other, and from that we can learn and develop our communities to be much more resilient, which is the ultimate goal.”

Former mayor Christopher Causton was invited to accept the honour and give a presentation on Oak Bay’s program at the Caribbean conference on comprehensive disaster management in Trinidad & Tobago this week. He decided not to make the trip after being warned by a friend that travel to the island nation was a risky proposition.

“Especially when you land at the airport, the flight from Toronto lands almost at midnight,” Causton explained. “And (the friend) says it’s now under curfew, so you can’t actually get from the airport (to) downtown.”

As it turned out, it was the right decision. The day after his conversation, Causton discovered that local authorities had uncovered a plot to assassinate that country’s prime minister.

“I’m really glad I didn’t go.”

But the recognition of Oak Bay’s leadership in emergency planning remains, and the municipality is now one of just two “role model” cities in Canada, along with North Vancouver. Saanich is in the process of obtaining similar status.

Cockle said it emphasizes the progress Oak Bay has made. “We’ve now identified that there are some risks that we need to manage and that have been identified here locally, and we’ve grown to accept that we need to plan for these.”

Assassination plots aside, Oak Bay emergency planning officials hope to take part in future UN conferences on the subject. The municipality will also have the opportunity next spring to pair up with a twin city, allowing the two communities to share emergency plans and documents.

“We’re very lucky to have some very professional emergency planning people in Oak Bay who have contributed to this plan,” said Causton. “That’s one of the reasons we’re able to do it – we’ve got volunteers who are highly qualified and are willing to give their time.”

editor@oakbaynews.com