In March 2020, COVID-19 emerged as a worldwide threat.
The City of Mission’s emergency program manager Monique Weir says the pandemic showcased the need to be better prepared for future disasters.
“We’re seeing more and more of these events occurring,” she said. “With what’s going on with the planet, I think we should be prepared for everything. It’s really scary but it’s the truth.”
Weir says Mission’s number one hazard is wildland urban interface fire — a wildfire that encroaches on a city.
“We need to understand Mission has been quite lucky. We’re not always going to be so lucky,” she said.
Weir is tasked with planning for and mitigating emergencies, along with preparing and training staff so that the city is ready disasters. She also supervises approximately 20 volunteers with the Emergency Support Services (ESS) team who are sent to fire scenes to care for residents who are affected.
“There’s not a one size fits all response when it comes to emergencies,” Weir said. “You have to be really creative and you have to know how to work with the people around you.”
Weir has lived in Mission for over 26 years and joined ESS in 2018 after her husband Glen joined Mission Fire Rescue Service as a paid on call firefighter in 2017. She became Mission’s emergency program manager after a vacancy, starting with seven hours a week before her position slowly morphed into a full-time role.
“This is my home and I care about the people that live here deeply,” she said. “I think that’s the first thing you need to have [to excel in the role] because this is a lot of hard work.”
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Weir helped convene a COVID task group with city department managers to meet every week and talk about the path forward amidst continuously changing public health protocols.
“We learned how to pivot very well,” Weir said. “I think we’re more resilient because of what we’ve been through. If we were to go back to that place, we would be better prepared mentally because we’ve been there.”
The changing public health protocols involving capacity limits, social distancing and vaccines proved challenging for emergency response. Weir says it was hard to find footing and get a handle on the situation.
“In Emergency Support Services, we continued to go out on scene,” she said. “A lot of communities shut down those programs.”
She says the City of Mission understands the need to be prepared, which is why she her current position has grown over the years.
“We’re seeing these things happening,” she said. “We’re seeing massive floods in Abbotsford, we’re seeing wildfires that take out whole towns, we’re seeing pandemics — I think what we need to be ready for anything.”
Weir says that climate change impacts everything in emergency management with extreme weather events like heat domes and atmospheric rivers happening more frequently.
She says cities in general need to understand that the events are not one-offs anymore.
“Cities really need to be intentional about budgeting for good emergency planning,” Weir said. “It’s not just about having the training, it’s about having the confidence so when stuff happens, we’re not panicking and flailing, but we know what we’re doing here.”
Shine Bright Mission is drawing closer – on Friday, March 3 from 7 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Downtown Mission will be lit up with 16 unique lights that symbolize important places and organizations in the community, thank first responders, and support local businesses. This community celebration will feature live music, children’s activities, and lots of lights.