It was disturbing to hear there are still communication problems that arise when the Canso Causeway is closed.
Recently at Inverness Municipal Council, councillor John Dowling talked about a fatal collision at around 2:49 p.m. on April 1 between a truck and cyclist near the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal scale house in Auld’s Cove, which tragically claimed the life of 57-year-old George Cavanaugh.
An RCMP collision analyst was called to the scene and police closed Highway 104 between Auld’s Cove and the Port Hastings Rotary for approximately six hours to investigate.
Traffic was backed-up to Port Hawkesbury on the Cape Breton side, and as far as Havre Boucher on the mainland side, forcing the Auld’s Cove and Port Hastings Volunteer Fire Departments to open their fire halls to accommodate motorists.
During the council meeting on April 3, Dowling noted that it is common to have the Causeway closed for emergencies and weather events, but the ways these occurrences are handled could be improved.
For instance, Dowling said volunteer fire departments and local RCMP detachments are not being notified when the span is closed. He said the Staff Sergeant in Port Hawkesbury told him he finds out about closures through social media or from a travelling RCMP member.
Dowling also said in situations where the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is stopping traffic, emergency responders are not informed.
Compounding matters is the location of the Port Hastings Fire Hall, which is located so close to the Causeway that any significantly backed-up traffic can interfere with the fire department’s ability to get trucks on the road.
The representative questioned why there is no communication from provincial counterparts when the Causeway is closed.
Taking off from Dowling’s suggestion for Inverness County to review its emergency measures plan, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton mentioned that Port Hawkesbury Town Council has a working committee looking to revise the town’s emergency measures plan, which she said would be done by working with neighbouring groups and municipalities.
And while local municipalities work together on their emergency plans, and reach out to local first responders in the process, it’s time for the province to finally revise protocol when the Canso Causeway is closed because this lack of communication is unnecessary and dangerous.
When there is a temporary or prolonged closure, the DTIR should first contact local RCMP, EHS and volunteer fire departments before anyone else. That should be priority number one.
Once all first responders are informed, then the department should post the news on social media, and send out press releases, advisories and bulletins to the media to get the word out to the general and motoring public.
It is important that motorists know if and when the Canso Causeway is closed, but it is absolutely vital that first responders are not only made aware, but given a reasonable opportunity to react to such news.
This has been going on for far too long, and before the next incident, it is incumbent on provincial authorities to finally get this right.