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Honouring a passion for outdoor safety and emergency preparedness

Terri-Lou Woods, coordinator with Health Emergency Management BC (HEMBC), was recently awarded the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. Learn more about her nomination and her important work in emergency preparedness.
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Terri-Lou Woods (left) stands by The Honourable Janet Austin (right), Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, upon receiving her medal | Photo source: Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia website.

As a coordinator with Health Emergency Management BC (HEMBC), Terri-Lou Woods’ job is to provide education, tools and support to the health authorities mainly working with—Fraser Health—to effectively mitigate, prepare for and respond to emergency events; ensuring the continuity of health services in the region.

Terri-Lou’s passion for safety and emergency preparedness is evident; so much so that this past fall she was presented the highest volunteer honour in the nation: the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

“When I received a call from the Governor General of Canada’s office, I thought it must be a joke,” said Terri-Lou. “Then I was told that my Search and Rescue team had nominated me for the honour, and it truly hit home.”
Terri-Lou has been volunteering for 28 years with the Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue team. It is a truly deserved honour. Recently we had a chance to speak with Terri-Lou to learn more about her work and what it was like to be honoured with the highest volunteer honour in Canada. Here’s what she told us:

Congratulations on your award! Can you tell us about your volunteer work and what it means to you?

Reflecting on the years, I am reminded of the times we struggled financially to ensure our vehicles had gas, members had the training and personal protective equipment to do their job, as well as, having a secure location to store our vehicles and equipment. Even though there were challenges, the team was always ready for a search or rescue call.

Over the years, search and rescue (SAR) in British Columbia has grown in many ways. Search and rescue teams across the province train weekly to ensure proficiency through a variety of scenarios, workshops and regional training opportunities. 

What keeps you coming back to your volunteer work?

What has kept me going every week are the positive experiences such as being able to return a child or senior to their families or in some cases just giving the family closure. What I have found most rewarding is watching this group of dedicated volunteers, become a respected team of unpaid professional emergency responders.

How did you feel the moment you were presented with the medal?

The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, presented me with the Sovereigns Medal for Volunteering at a ceremony in Victoria. Upon receiving it, I felt proud of the years of weekly training and the privilege I have had to work with so many amazing people who give their time to help those lost or injured in our communities. Like HEMBC, Search and Rescue provides education, training and support to the volunteers, as well as, running exercises or drills weekly to strengthen our skills to ensure we are prepared for any emergency situation that may come up.

Anything you would like to add about your role and the impact to those you serve?

In the past, health emergency management was the job of one or two people. The increasing number of disasters around the world due to climate change has spiked in their severity and frequency, and we need to be proactive. HEMBC has a strong team of experienced professionals working with health authority staff and leaders to ensure we have robust response plans and our facilities and services are prepared and ready to respond when an emergency or disaster happens.

Congratulations, Terri-Lou, on this incredible honour and thank you for everything you do for outdoor safety and emergency preparedness!
accomplishments; achievements; HEMBC; Emergency Preparedness
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