BC Safety Authority offended by ‘Gestapo’ reference

Sicamous Coun. Fred Busch is prepared to defend a derogatory comment made at the expense of the actions of the BC Safety Authority…

Sicamous Coun. Fred Busch is prepared to defend a derogatory comment made at the expense of the actions of the BC Safety Authority in response to the recent flooding.

A number of residents were fuming over the weekend of July 7 and 8, after their meters had been disconnected, subsequently cutting off power, by employees of the BC Safety Authority, an independent, not-for-profit organization delegated by the province to “promote the safe installation and use of technical equipment.” According to a June 29 letter by the BC Safety Authority, received on July 6 by residents, power was cut to “protect both persons and property from imminent hazard created by flood damage to electrical systems.”

Mayor Darrell Trouton agreed public safety should be paramount, but he was critical of the way the BC Safety Authority went about its work.

“I don’t think they handled it in a professional manner,” Trouton said in a July News interview. “You’ve got to realize, these are the people we work for. We’re all civil servants and we work for the people, and you should have a level of respect when you’re dealing with the people.”

At a subsequent council meeting, Busch was less diplomatic in his choice of words when commenting on how the “Gestapo-type” actions of the BC Safety Authority not only cut power to residents, but also to the former district building on Riverside Avenue, where pumps operating in the basement to remove the rising lake water subsequently stopped operating. The building has since been slated for demolition.

“There were a number of homes under similar circumstances I believe you’re aware of, and there were also some businesses,” said Busch. “I really feel we should make our protest known to our MLA and the proper authorities about this.”

On Aug. 8, council received a letter from the BC Safety Authority president Catherine Roome, seeking to clarify the “technical and electrical risks associated with flooding, and the role the BC Safety Authority (BCSA).”

“It is with profound recognition for the seriousness of the effects of this environmental disaster that BCSA is at service to you and public safety,” states the letter. “I do not, however, like that our team’s actions were labelled as ‘Gestapo-like,’ and find these references offensive.”

The letter goes on to elaborate on the danger that exists when electrical equipment and infrastructure, as well as gas appliances, are exposed to flood waters. It says the BCSA looked at more than 600 properties and 125 affected buildings in Sicamous, and its officers ordered 35 power disconnections.

“While onsite, our officers found some homes were re-energized even though they were flooded,” the letter reads. “As an example, one woman was standing in water up to her knees with the lights on. This is not a safe condition.”

Busch did not retract the comment, but instead was keen to make a motion to invite Roome to a council meeting, where he said he would explain his use of that term. He suggested that others affected by the BCSA’s actions would also be present and wanting to share their concerns.

Council, including Trouton, were quick to support Busch’s motion. Trouton said the BCSA has a long way to go to improve their communications skills and that he found them unsatisfactory.

The letter from Roome welcomes a meeting with, and feedback from council.

“We consider municipal governments a key stakeholder in promoting and supporting safety in B.C. communities and look forward to working closely with you on this and any technical safety issues which affect the District of Sicamous in the future.”