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25-year emergency social services volunteer, co-founder celebrated by Langford

ESS group sprang from Beverley Wilson’s questions about emergency preparedness
Langford Emergency Social Services co-founder Beverly Wilson, left, receives recognition from Langford Fire Rescue Chief Chris Aubrey during a celebration of the volunteer organzation’s 25th anniversary. (Photo Courtesy of Langford ESS)

For 25 years, the citizens of Langford have been able to count on the support of the city’s Emergency Support Service (ESS) when they fall victim to house fires or natural disasters.

Throughout those 25 years, there has been the constant presence of Beverly Wilson. In fact, Langford’s ESS was spawned out of a series of questions Wilson asked, which kept escalating.

“It was just simple questioning to the principal of my kids’ school, then follow-up phone calls to Langford to see what would happen in an earthquake,” she said. “With enough questioning, Langford realized we needed a plan, since nothing had really been done. It was the infancy stages of emergency preparedness everywhere.”

By 1996, the organization was officially up and running, and Wilson said it got off to a slow start, with only a few people signing up to volunteer. On Dec. 29 of that year however, a massive snowstorm hit the region.

READ MORE: Majority of British Columbians have poor emergency preparedness: poll

For Wilson, that meant living in the Langford fire hall with another volunteer for five days, helping those who had been caught out in the storm. In the aftermath, however, ESS received a flood of people looking to either volunteers, or learn how they could prepare for the next emergency.

There are two main sides to what an ESS does in its community. Teaching people about emergency preparedness is one, the other is the actual response to emergencies. Langford ESS co-director Margaret Stevens said volunteers are called out to any emergency situation, such as house fires, floods and earthquakes, where the people affected are in need of the basic necessities of life.

“We respond to the needs of evacuees for their first 72 hours,” Stevens said. “If an apartment building burns down in Langford, the fire chief would (call ESS) so we can register those people and take care of them with food, clothing and shelter.”

If people are still in need after those 72 hours, she said, ESS can either ask the province – which funds ESS organizations – to authorize an extension of their support, or they can request another agency such as the Canadian Red Cross take over support efforts.

On Nov. 27, both the organization and Wilson were recognized for their quarter-century of community service, which meant she added to her service pin collection.

”I’m amazed 25 years have gone by and it is still going,” Wilson said. “I’m really proud of how Langford has held on. Over those 25 years, I have seen so many teams just dissolve. It’s a lot of work and it is all volunteers.”

Asked how long she plans on staying involved, Wilson said she hopes to earn her next pin at 30 years at the very least.

“It started as kind of a hobby, but now it is a part of me.”

READ MORE: Saanich fire, emergency program share household tips for crisis preparation


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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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