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County prepares to handle emergencies; will wait a year for government assistance

test-of-emergency-2014-aIt will be more than a year by the time the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program might assist Prince Edward County with costs related to the ice storm just before Christmas last year.

In the meantime, the County continues to practice how it should handle emergencies.

students from CML Snider Public School participated in the drill, acting as displaced residents

Students from CML Snider Public School participated in the drill, acting as displaced residents

At an Emergency Preparedness Drill last week, Mayor Peter Mertens said the relief assistance program received such a large number of requests for assistance from municipalities across the province, they have created a separate program specifically for ice storms. The storm cost the County approximately $500,000 in damages, response costs, cleanup and recovery.

“Two days ago I got notification that they’ve sent the new application forms out. They’ve vetted us on a preliminary basis that we’re eligible and now they’re saying ‘now that you’re eligible, you can fill out all this paperwork out.’ It will be a year or more before we actually get any assistance.”

Each year the County’s Emergency Management Control Group municipal staff, police, fire, ambulance, social services, volunteers and community partners participate in a drill and a tabletop mock disaster. Last week’s drill was loosely based on December’s ice storm.

The mayor notes that in times of power outages in the winter, the County’s rural residents are generally more fortunate than those in the city.

“We are fortunate to be in a rural area with many generators and wood stoves. I never did declare an emergency last Christmas as our own forces were able to cope. However, we are examining things further in this exercise. We will look at which halls in the community might need to have a back up generator to help reduce the amount of travel time for citizens who need to find a source of heat.

 Communications officers Emily Tubbs and Ashley Stewart with Grace Nyman, Community Development, holding a copy of the Emergency Plan book.


Communications officers Emily Tubbs and Ashley Stewart with Grace Nyman, Community Development, holding a copy of the Emergency Plan book.

The mayor, as head of council, is tasked with declaring an emergency in the municipality after consultation with the control group members which include the mayor and CAO, fire chief, OPP detachment commander, commissioner of public works, medical officer of health, director of social services and a public information co-ordinator.

“Oddly enough, our mock exercise last spring was looking at what we would do if there were an explosion at a propane plant. We were prepared when a similar situation happened in Wellington later in the year.”

Catastrophe was avoided early December last year when quick acting firefighters found themselves well trained to handle the scene when a delivery truck carrying propane burst into flames.

The testing of the effectiveness of the County’s emergency plan involved setting up a call centre, evaluating the ability and efficiency for responding to public inquiries and the ability to work with Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services to set up and staff a reception centre where members of the community could go for warmth, cell phone charging, water and food.

Though the County discourages residents from bringing their pets to the reception centres, they do bring them with the other members of the family.

County resident Marie-France Doucette, and Josh Matson, of the Ontario SPCA were on scene to explain how the animal protection unit can assist in emergencies. Matson explained the Napanee-based SPCA is equipped to send a team, their large truck with electricity, and enough cages for all the animals.

“We provide food, water, shelter and comfort for the animals,” said Doucette. “Everything the pets would need.”

Community volunteers and students from CML Snider Public School participated in the drill, acting as displaced residents, and placing phone calls as concerned residents.

Joan Sweeney and Doris Houston, both from Milford, were happy to assist in the exercise. Both noted they were without electricity for four days during the ice storm last Christmas and spent most of their time trying to keep warm.

“Today has been informative,” said Sweeney. “It has made me think about getting more supplies together to be prepared.”

Houston said she will also reinforce her emergency kit.

“We didn’t even have working phones last Christmas. Thank goodness the OPP came to check on us and offered help. Even cell phones don’t work well most of the time over our way.”

“Annual drills are essential to ensuring the municipality and our partners are as prepared as possible for a real-life emergency,” says Fire Chief Scott Manlow, Community Emergency Management Coordinator.

Everybody should have a 72-hour emergency kit containing water, food, first-aid supplies, tools, clothing, bedding and special items – including at least one week’s supply of medication, spare batteries, food and water for pets. Note: consume and replace canned and dry goods once a year.
Use these checklists as a guide:

Basic check list1

basic check list 2

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  1. W Garry says:

    Are the playing cards Hotwheels or Dinky toys?

    wgs

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