In Case of Emergency

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Did you know that the Municipality of North Grenville has a Municipal Emergency Plan? If there was ever a major emergency similar to the ice storm of 1998, there is now a plan on how to handle these types of large-scale events. It can also be deployed in case of a coming event too. As mandated by the provincial government, every municipality must have one, including our upper-tier municipal government, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.

There is a copy of the “public” version of this plan available on the municipal website which contains a scant fifty-three pages. However, the actual full version of the plan including all appendices (which are not publicly accessible, partly because they contain personal information) is about four inches thick when compiled into a binder and sitting flat on a table. The emergency plan is “designed for the designated Municipal Control Group (MCG) to utilize an Incident Management System (IMS) to ensure the co-ordination of municipal, provincial, federal, private, and volunteer services in an emergency to bring the situation under control as quickly as possible”.

The Incident Management System (IMS) is the process or system that is used “to provide a coordinated, early response to an emergency, using the resources available, in order to protect the health, safety, welfare and property of the inhabitants of the emergency area”. The five key functions of IMS are Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance/Administration. There is to be an assigned section chief for each one of these functions with additional Command positions including: Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Commander, Safety Officer, Emergency Information Officer (EIO) and Liaison Officer.

The Municipal Control Group (MCG) may consist of: the Head of Council (Mayor), the Deputy Mayor, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), the Senior Management Team (all department directors), Police, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Information Officer and other municipal staff. When the MCG is notified of an event, they report to the EOC. From the EOC, the MCG will direct and control the functions of the IMS. The MCG is “responsible for coordinating the provision of management and resources necessary to minimize the effects of an emergency on the community”.

The Head of Council (Mayor or Deputy Mayor in the Mayor’s absence) is responsible for declaring an emergency. The Mayor can also terminate a municipal emergency as well as Council itself or the Premier of Ontario. After declaring an emergency, the Mayor must notify: Emergency /management Ontario, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Council, United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, the Public, neighbouring community officials, the MP and the MPP.

There a number of ways to communicate an emergency situation according to North Grenville Fire Chief John Okum. The type of communication that would be used would depend on the situation. Online (including social media and municipal website posts) communication, radio station alerts and even temporary signage and door to door notifications using volunteers could all be used.

According to the Chief, there are a number of possible locations for emergency reception centres throughout North Grenville depending on the circumstances of the emergency and what facilities are available at these locations. He added that the Municipality is already working on creating usage agreements with the owners or operators of some of these facilities to minimize the amount of time it would take to access them in an emergency. The North Grenville Municipal Centre would be a likely candidate because of the extensive facilities it has including a generator, kitchens, washrooms, showers and lots of floor space for people to sleep on.

One interesting point mentioned in the plan is the following statement:“All municipal officials of North Grenville, whether elected or appointed, must be fully conversant with the contents of this emergency plan and be prepared at all times to carry out the functions and responsibilities allotted to them”. I’m sure it would be challenging for everyone to be able to remember the contents of the plan, so it was great to hear that this year there was a test of the plan using a widespread loss of electricity simulation. It sounds like things went very well, which is very comforting considering our increasingly unpredictable weather and the potential damage that it can cause. So, if there’s ever another ice storm in our future, we sound much better prepared to tackle it this time around.

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