Below are sample guidelines for ESS responders when working in GL, which were adapted from the policies and procedures developed by the City of Richmond, North Shore Emergency Management Office, and the City of Vancouver (2010).
Security of residents’ belongings is the responsibility of the residents. Residents can keep their belongings under their cot, but valuables should be kept with them at all times.
It is appropriate to call 911 in the event:
- An event that involves an immediate threat to person or property: screams, attacks, gunshots, fire, accident with injuries or any other medical emergency
- A substantive, in-progress crime. This includes fights, break and enters (if there is a suspect on scene) or a report of an impaired driver
- A serious crime that has just occurred (e.g., sexual assault or robbery)
- A suspicious circumstance that may indicate an immediate criminal act (e.g., prowler, vandal)
Take note of the suspect/individual’s descriptors:
- Hair/eye colour
- Distinguishing features
- Name (if known)
- Vehicle descriptions/plate (if used)
- Weapon (if used)
- Suspected drug/alcohol/mental health issues
Please note that when you call 911, they will ask you the following: full name, date of birth, address and contact numbers. It is for the file and will not be divulged to the suspect/public.
Call the appropriate non-emergency number for police/fire ambulance for all events not described above, but still require emergency personnel attendance, examples include:
- Reporting a crime with no suspect (e.g., theft)
- Reporting a crime with suspect, but suspect is not on the scene (e.g., fraud)
- Reporting a serious crime with suspect, but with a lengthy delay (e.g., assault that occurred last night)
- Non-emergency in-progress (e.g., drug use)
- On-going crime issues or crimes that are not in-progress (e.g., graffiti or ongoing drug dealing with no suspect on scene)
When the facility is at 80% occupancy, advise your supervisor, who will talk to the GL Manager and/or ESS Director about potentially opening another GL facility, depending on the number of evacuees still requiring accommodation.
Generally care homes should have their own contingency plans for evacuation – GL may not be suitable. If a special care facility is evacuated to the GL facility, ensure that staff from the care facility are accompanying their residents and remind these staff that it is their responsibility to look after their residents’ medical concerns. ESS responders can offer comfort food, a listening ear, and reassurance. ESS responders need to monitor this group and have emotional support, first aid, their care workers, and responders on standby. If some of the seniors appear to be more anxious than others, remove them from the general population and get them settled in a quiet area with one-on-one support.
Check In/Check Out
Check in evacuees at the beginning of their stay in the GL and check out evacuees at the end of their stay. Wristbands can be issued to identify the residents. Download and see a Sample GL Check In-Out Process Instructions, courtesy of the City of Richmond, North Shore Emergency Management Office, and City of Vancouver.
Sign In/Sign Out
In addition to checking in and out of a GL facility, residents must also sign in and sign out when they come and go from the premises. The primary reason for requiring sign in/out is for the safety and security of the residents. It allows staff to know that those in the facility belong there (beyond wristbands that should be issued) and also provides for accountability of the residents should the facility need to be evacuated. In some areas, signing in/out is a requirement by the local fire departments in order to keep track of who is on the premises. Download and see a Sample GL Resident Sign In-Out Log.
Children/Youth Separated from Their Caregivers
Ensure that unattended children have appropriate supervision and care at the GL facility until they can be reunited with their family or until a social worker from the provincial/territorial children’s services office (in BC, it’s the Ministry of Children and Family Development [MCFD]) makes an alternative plan. Children/youth may arrive at a GL unaccompanied by their parents or other caregivers — advise your supervisor, who will consult with the GL Manager and/or the ESSD, who may contact the provincial/territorial children’s services office since they have the legal responsibility for unattended children (anyone under the age of 19; in BC, call the Ministry’s 24-hour After Hours Office for assistance: 310-1234 — no area code needed). All unattended children are to be registered with name, birth date, address and the name of parents or caregivers. The ESS file should be marked “restricted” — only social workers are responsible for releasing information regarding unattended children.
Children Under 13
A separate space within the GL facility should be set aside for child care. This space should be sufficiently open to allow outside observation. At all times there should be a minimum of two licensed and qualified child care providers looking after the children. If children arrive under the care of a teacher or day care provider these persons are expected to remain with the children at the GL facility. Children can only be released to their parents, adult siblings, foster parents, or legal guardians — not to neighbours, friends of the family, or other relatives. Check ID before releasing a child to the care of an adult.
If a caregiver must leave, first ask for confirmation regarding who has the authority to pick up the child.
Youth Aged 13 to 18
Adult support is required but ongoing supervision is not mandatory. Care should be provided in an area sufficiently open to allow outside observation. Youth may be encouraged to become volunteers. If a youth is a client of the provincial/territorial children’s services office, a social worker should be involved. Youth are to be encouraged to remain at the GL facility but if they are determined to leave, responders should not attempt to stop them. If a youth leaves the centre, volunteers should attempt to learn where they are planning to go and how to reach them.
A social worker from the provincial/territorial children’s services office should be requested for assistance. This social worker can generally assist in interviewing distressed children or help find childcare resources to augment GL staff.
Children/Youth – Supervision
Parents are required to supervise their children/youth at all times. Children may not be left in the GL by their parents unless there are qualified and licensed childcare workers on site. Responders can only look after children for short periods of time while their parents are completing paperwork. If no child care facilities are available, parents must take their children with them when they leave the GL. If children have been left in the facility inappropriately, talk to the parents upon their return and ensure they understand their responsibility for supervision of their children at all times.
Children/Youth – Suspected Abuse
Everyone who has a reason to believe that a child has been or is likely to be physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited, or needs protection, is legally responsible to report the matter to a child protection worker. Notify your supervisor, who will advise the GL Manager and/or ESSD, who will then contact the provincial/territorial children’s services office and determine what support can be provided to the family. The provincial/territorial children’s services office will do a further assessment to determine what support is available.
Everyone within a GL facility is to be treated with respect and dignity, without discrimination. There is equal access for all. Evacuees will be reminded that they can make alternate shelter arrangements if they are uncomfortable staying in the GL facility under those terms. Conflict between residents needs to be dealt with immediately. Notify your supervisor and security. If you are not able to de-escalate safely, call the police.
Drugs & Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are not allowed in the GL facility. Keep in mind that this is a stressful time for evacuees and people may have had a drink or two and are not handling it well. Always ask for First Aid to assist, and assess the situation. There may be medical issues such as diabetes that may seem like an alcohol or drug issue. If the evacuee is quiet and can be helped to a cot there may be no need for anything else to be done except to remind the person of the no alcohol rule. If the evacuee is belligerent, ask security to assist. It may be necessary to ask the person to leave or to call the police to attend. Discuss the group lodging rules with the evacuee the next morning to ensure it does not happen again. If this involves children speak to the parents to have them stop this behaviour.
First aid is an important element of GL and should be available at all times by a certified attendant. It is expected that the RC will do a certain amount of triage of evacuees as they are being interviewed and that evacuees with medical issues or special needs will be directed elsewhere.
Health regulations do not make it possible for food donations to be accepted in a GL facility from the general public. If people show up on site with food donations, explain, as sensitively as possible, that the food cannot be accepted. If people insist on leaving the food, accept it then throw out on site. Advise your supervisor, who will advise the GL Manager and/or ESS Director that this is happening so that the EOC or the municipal hall (if the EOC is not open) can ensure that appropriate media messaging is going out.
Restaurants are Foodsafe certified, therefore, food donations from them can be accepted. Another option if restaurants want to contribute, is ask them for vouchers so that residents can be sent to the restaurant, and/or take their information, and if food needs to be ordered, it can be ordered from that restaurant. Ensure that the restaurant is not asking for compensation before accepting the food or vouchers.
Accurate, timely, and appropriate communications can help support the recovery of those affected by an emergency/disaster. Below are some examples of GL communication techniques and how they can be used to help the GL facility operate properly.
Bulletin boards are a method of communicating with both the residents and staff. For residents, they can be used to post information such as news releases, messages from friends and family, and lists of available resources such as housing. Staff bulletin boards can be placed in the staff break area. They can be used for many of the same purposes: news releases, notes from friends and family, staff schedules, thank-you notes, and operational memos.
Operational information may be communicated to staff by all levels of the GL management team. This information may be a directive, a thank-you for a job well done, or a staff schedule. These memos may be posted on a bulletin board or delivered in a staff meeting.
Residential Advisory Committee Meetings
Residents benefit from being a part of the operation of the GL facility. They should be allowed not only to help, when possible, but also to be involved in managing the GL facility. Most GL facilities include members of already-established social groups who know each other and have established their communication patterns. Involving residents of the GL facility by establishing GL facility advisory committees can provide a more efficient method of communications. They can also assist the GL staff in resolving any problems that may occur.
Shift Change Briefings
It is very important that the staff coming on shift be aware of what has taken place on the previous shifts. This is especially important in the Security and GL Manager functions. Each function should schedule about 30 minutes of overlap as the shift changes. This allows staff from both shifts to communicate with each other.
Communications with your supervisor must be two-way; otherwise, the relationship will eventually break down. Your supervisor will hold a staff meeting at least once per shift. Even if meetings last for only 15 minutes, they still provide a chance to communicate, relieve stress, and resolve problems.
There will be times you will be asked to perform duties you have no experience in. Sometimes your supervisor will hold training sessions on the spot. Always ask questions if you are unsure of a process.
When needed and available, translation services will be provided to residents. Usually, a youth or teen within the immediate family, other residents or staff on site will have translation skills. The ESS Translation Guide can be used as well (see link in Resources to the ESS Translation Guide) which provides translations for typical questions in various languages. As a last resort, a request can be made to the provincial/territorial ESS office (in BC, it’s Emergency Management BC [EMBC]) to cover the costs of hiring a translator. Also, the Resident Information Sheet has been translated into other languages.
Media are not permitted in a GL facility. GL is the equivalent of a private residence and only registered guests are permitted to enter at any time. Politely but firmly direct the media to speak with the Information Officer or ESSD who may or may not be on site. If off site, provide a location and/or contact number. All media inquiries are to go through the Information Officer. If media are insistent that they wish to speak to residents, advise them that you will ask residents if they would like to speak to the media — outside the GL facility. If media are resistant to leaving, call security or the police if necessary.
A GL facility is a microcosm of society; behaviors that exist in the community will also exist in the GL facility. Expect to see behaviors related to mental illness, substance abuse, etc.
Complaints About a Resident Who May Have a Disease
Health care professionals can be brought in to explain the facts around diseases. Residents complaining can be reminded they can make their own arrangements for lodging if they are not satisfied with the conditions within the GL facility.
A Resident Behaving Strangely
Refer to the Emotional Support Unit if activated. If not activated, advise your supervisor who will contact the GL Manager and/or the ESS Director to request assistance.
High standards for sanitation and hygiene are required to prevent the spread of disease and to maintain morale in GL. If viruses such as H1N1, Norwalk or norovirus are a concern at the time GL is being set up, it will be crucial to have health authority staff involved in the operation right from the start, both at the GL facility and especially at the RC facility, as it should be possible to screen people who have infectious diseases out of the ESS system when they arrive at GL to register. GL facilities have limited capacity to manage contagious viruses. If an infection appears in the GL facility — take the following steps to contain the situation:
Quarantine infected residents
Clean area thoroughly
Keep their family members informed
Notify your supervisor immediately, who will advise the GL Manager and/or the ESSD, who will in turn contact the health authority for assistance
Post signs and ensure everyone in the facility (staff and residents) knows the appropriate safety measures, e.g., washing hands regularly, maintaining distance, etc.
With the exception of registered assistance animals, pets are generally not allowed in GL. Some local authorities have access to larger facilities and may allow pets in a separate room. When pets are not allowed, every effort will be made to stage a pet care facility near the GL facility to accommodate pets. Resources such as the local animal shelters (e.g., SPCA) will be asked to assist as well. If people refuse to stay in the GL without their pets, then they are choosing not to stay in GL.
Facilities will only be opened up if they are suitable and have power. Very few GLs have back up power. ESS responders would only be asked to respond if it is safe or if safe transport can be arranged.
Privacy – Social Media
Privacy is limited in GL. Explain to evacuees that lack of privacy is inevitable in congregate lodging when they register. Being aware of this information will help them manage their expectations. Tents will not be allowed, as responders need to be able to watch what is happening within the facility. Evacuees can be reminded that they are welcome to look for alternate accommodations if they do not wish to reside in a congregate facility. In some facilities where there is lots of space, it may be possible to separate groupings of people (e.g., families in one space, single men in another space, etc.).
Residents and responders must respect the privacy of others and limit any Facebook, Twitter and other social networking and internet blog posts to their personal experience only. It is not permitted to document and post the experience of other residents or responders. Signage can be posted as a reminder.
PHAC (2007) recommends the following sanitation standards for the GL facility:
Residents should be provided with their own soap and towels or a linen service should be utilized. Residents should keep their bar of soap. Soap bars in common use increase the risk of contagious skin diseases.
For all uses — drinking, washing and food preparation — standard water supply in the group lodging facility should average as follows:
- Drinking — 2 litres per day
- Washing — 12 litres per day
- Sanitation — 112 litres per day
- Softwood floors should be oiled to reduce dust. No dry sweeping should be allowed and all floors should be swept daily with damp sweeping compound
- Bed forms, ledges and flat surfaces should be damp-dusted daily
- Blankets and sleeping bags should be shaken outside once daily and rolled
- Concrete floors should be scrubbed daily with warm, soapy water
- One 50–100 litre capacity can for every 12–25 people
- Three/four, 50–100 litre capacity cans for every 100 people
Garbage cans should have lids and be protected in screened, fly-and-rodent-proof enclosures if possible.
Security is an important element of GL and will be required for night watches, traffic control, access to the facility, fire prevention, and control. In some circumstances, it may be necessary to request support from police or from a security agency.
Priorities as the facility is activated include:
- Directing traffic
- Directing movement into the facility
- Identifying and clearing fire exits so they are unobstructed and easy to access
- Establishing security patrols of the facility, designated parking area, and sleep watches
Continuing priorities include:
- Establishing regular security controls
- Ensuring security regulations are adhered to
- Maintaining security, fire and overnight fire watches (see Appendix B, link to GLOG for the Security Function Checklist for further details)
The Security person will need to have the list of all evacuees who have checked in with him/her at all times. The fire drill should be reviewed with each evacuee at the time of check in so if something happens during the night, they will not be confused.
The Security person will need to review each room where there may be people and must have the facility map with assembly areas, fire extinguishers, and exits labeled.
Assure evacuees that every effort will be made to accommodate their needs within the limitations of the facility.
It is important to keep families together, as this lessens stress and helps the recovery process; however, it may not always be possible to reserve beds for evacuees who have not arrived yet.
Moving cots within a family’s assigned space is allowed — within reason, as long as evacuees are not moving cots into someone else’s space, into a walking aisle, or in front of a door. It is also fine to move cots within their family space. It is understandable that family members might want to be closer together within their assigned space.
Sharing a Cot
Sharing a cot is not allowed. Any residents engaging in this behavior are to be approached discreetly and asked to stop. If there is any resistance, security should be called to assist. Rules need to be enforced, but with discretion.
Lights Out – Shift Workers
If possible, there may be separate sleep areas for shift workers. If separate sleep areas are not possible, sleep masks may be provided to shift workers. Lights will be dimmed from 22:00 hours (10 p.m.) to 7:00 hours (7 a.m.) daily. Shift workers will be permitted to sleep during the day, and they can wear their sleep mask to block out the light.
Smoking is permitted in outside designated smoking areas only.
Standards of Conduct
A list of expectations for residents of the GL should be posted in a prominent area. Download and read Sample Group Lodging Rules. The Standards of Conduct sheet, sometimes referred to as the Resident Information Sheet, can be found in the GLOG. A GL Resident Agreement can be used in conjunction with the Resident Information Sheet to ensure GL residents understand what kind of conduct is expected while staying in GL . Download Sample GL Resident Agreement.
If a minor is involved, address the issues with his/her parent(s) and make it their responsibility to stop the behaviour. Stress that this behaviour cannot continue and cannot reoccur. Provide a briefing to your supervisor immediately, and if necessary, contact security and/or the police. It is important to ensure the safety of your colleagues and GL residents and to make it obvious that we are aware of the behaviour and will address it.
Volunteering to Help
Encourage residents to help in the facility — there are many jobs that do not require special training. Residents who help maintain GL can develop a sense of belonging and may take more responsibility for their actions.
Responders will be informed, educated, and supported in order to maximize their effectiveness as ESS responders while minimizing the risk of physical and emotional fatigue.
If you are having difficulty with your workload, please advise your GL supervisor. Worker care disaster response can result in working long hours helping people of all ages to understand and manage the many reactions, feelings and challenges triggered by these stressful circumstances. ESS responders need to look after themselves in order to be able to help others. (See the Worker Care section in Introduction to Reception Centres)