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Watching the homefront

Bruce Valpy
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 07/02) - An organization most Canadians don't hear about is the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness or OCIPEP.

Formed in February 2001, there are regional offices in each provincial capital. Approximately 150 personnel are in Ottawa working with a budget of $20 to $25 million, according to spokesperson Max London. More will come after the latest federal budget added $396 million to be divided between OCIPEP, CSIS and RCMP.

OCIPEP is the group of people who are supposed to set off the alarm before, during or after an emergency that threatens the whole or part of Canada in a big way.

Examples of such events: the Red River and Saguenay floods, the Swiss Air disaster and the diversion of flights and thousands of air passengers to Canada on Sept. 11.

They act as expediters, working with all levels of government and industry to get whatever is needed on the scene, from sleeping cots to satellite communication.

Without knowing what Acts of God may be in the works, terrorist attacks are the greatest threats now.

Previously known as Emergency Preparedness Canada, the key word to what they do is 'infrastructure'.

They identify requirements for communications, energy, transportation, government services, money, food and healthcare basics, everything that makes the world go around. It's also a great place to find out about computer viruses. Check out: http://www.ocipep-bpiepc.gc.ca

The Y2K global scare contributed a lot to OCIPEP's knowledge and experience. In that instance, the world was worried about the effect of computer clocks clicking to the Year 2000. Everything from home computers to airplanes and hospital equipment was expected to be thrown into a tailspin.

While the end of the world didn't happen, all the planning and dollars spent to avoid the problem wasn't wasted. Said OCIPEP spokesperson London: "We learned a lot about critical infrastructure and how it is all interconnected."