Volunteers plan for emergencies on SFU campuses

January 27, 2005, vol. 32, no. 2
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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She's not promising there will be chocolates on the pillows, but Connie Coniglio is making sure there are plenty of warm beds and other creature comforts when disaster strikes SFU's campus communities.

In addition to her duties as associate director of clinical services, Coniglio is the volunteer director of SFU's emergency social services (ESS) program, a key component of the university's overall emergency planning strategy. Over the last year, Coniglio has organized a cross-campus team of volunteers who are responsible for meeting the immediate personal needs of students, staff and faculty for the first 72 hours after a disaster.

“It's our job to set up a reception centre to greet and assist the people who are affected by a disaster,” says Coniglio. “Our staff would, for example, arrange accommodation for displaced residence students, or liaise with on-campus food services to make sure everyone gets fed and watered. And it wouldn't have to be a major disaster for us to have to activate the centre - a big dump of snow could easily strand hundreds of people on Burnaby mountain overnight.”

So far, 18 SFU staff members have volunteered to become members of the ESS team, but Coniglio is looking for another 10 recruits - especially representatives from SFU Surrey and Harbour Centre. “We don't have quite enough support from the satellite campuses,” she says, “and we'd be delighted to have more faculty and union representation from across the university.”

Volunteers must agree to take specialized training - about 16 hours a year through the Justice Institute - and must have their supervisor's approval to attend a two-hour team meeting every second month. “And of course, they must be willing to be called out in a disaster,” says Coniglio.

In return, she says, they gain leadership and management skills and networking opportunities that “will serve them tremendously in their personal as well as their professional lives.

“I'd really encourage people to step forward and get involved,” says Coniglio. “It is a wonderful way to make a difference to your campus community and to be a part of something bigger than your day-to-day responsibilities.”

For more information about volunteering for SFU's ESS program, contact: connie_coniglio@sfu.ca

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