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Communities still working on emergency plans
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 1, 2011
Ed Zebedee said about a third of the communities have passed a bylaw formalizing the emergency plan for their community, but he added almost all of them have a plan in draft form.
"I definitely say 75 per cent of the communities will have their emergency plans adopted by the end of this year," he said. "Adoption by bylaw is important, but the fact they've had the training now and they're doing their emergency plans is more important to us than the formality of adoption."
People know how to survive and take care of themselves better in the North than they do in the south, said Zebedee. A major power outage, for instance, is going to be an inconvenience and costly but people tend to know what to do, he added.
"I think the communities in Nunavut are much more resilient than southern communities and I think most of them are better prepared for emergencies than southern communities," he said.
The collapse of a bridge in Pangnirtung in June 2008 due to erosion from heavy rains and flash floods remains Nunavut's sole claim to date to the federal government's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program, which provides financial assistance to provincial and territorial governments in the event of a large-scale emergency. The bridge collapse cut off the community's access to its water reservoir, sewage lagoon and garbage dump.
Senior administrative officer Ron Mongeau said hamlet council is scheduled to review a formal emergency plan in September.
"If you look at every municipality in Nunavut, Pangnirtung is one of the communities that needs to be most prepared. We have significant issues here every year with major wind storms," said Mongeau.
"An emergency plan is critical. It's the guideline that tells this community that we are prepared for an emergency, that we've got a team, that we know what we're doing, that we're in control. It is very important for us and we consider it critical that council passes this as quickly as possible."
A health emergency, a major blizzard and a major fire are the top three hazards or emergencies, based on probability and magnitude of impact, that could occur in a community, according to the Nunavut Emergency Management Annual Report for 2010/11, tabled in the Nunavut legislature on June 7. A hazardous goods spill is at the bottom of the list.
Late last summer, the MV Clipper Adventurer ran aground in the Northwest Passage about 60 nautical miles from Kugluktuk. The ship's 128 passengers sought refuge in Kugluktuk, and arrived in the middle of the night via Canadian Coast Guard ships.
Kugluktuk's deputy mayor, Grant Newman, said his community's emergency plan has been passed by council, and it was important to adopt to be ready for emergencies.
"It's nice to have something written down and thought out, both in the type of situation or crisis. You have something to refer to if an emergency happens," he said.
Kugluktuk is "very well prepared," said Newman.
"We have a strong administration in the hamlet, strong leadership in our public works department, strong leadership in our search and rescue area and a willingness of people to come in and volunteer and help out during an emergency situation," he said.
"You can say you are prepared for an emergency, but you are never wholly prepared. We did our best and I think it worked out well."
In Resolute, more than 10 people underwent the municipal emergency training program, including senior administrative officer Martha Kalluk. She said the hamlet would like to have the emergency plan adopted by the end of the year.
"It's important because the community does need an emergency response in case there was a power outage or big storms," she said
Iqaluit has already formally adopted its emergency plan. Mayor Madeleine Redfern said it's always best to know beforehand who would be involved in handling emergencies, and have designated individuals whether for logistical purposes or decision-making, and official spokespersons to ensure adequate communication.
The city will do a mock exercise of its plan before the end of the year, she added.
"It's not just a plan on paper but it is actually seeing where there were possible misunderstandings or miscommunications so you can address those when and if a real emergency ever occurs in the future," she said.