ARICHAT: All municipal councillors in Richmond County will be part of a new emergency measures committee.

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council in Arichat on October 28, all councillors voted unanimously to sit on a new Municipal Emergency Measures Planning Committee.

As well, councillors James Goyetche and Jason MacLean agreed to be part of the Municipal Emergency Measures Advisory Committee.

During the committee of the whole meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on October 15, Richmond’s Emergency Measures coordinator Adam King appeared before council to respond to concerns expressed at September’s council meeting.

In this report, King responded to questions e-mailed to him by the municipality, the first being what the municipality can do to help the EMO in the future.

King said he needs to know how much and which types of training municipal staff and elected officials have which would help establish a clear delineation of duties among municipal and EMO personnel. He called on the municipality to train all personnel and councillors.

King also said there needs to be a standing EMO committee struck to meet twice a year which would work under the province’s Emergency Management Act.

MacLean agreed that such a committee is needed, and he volunteered to be part of the group, to which district 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher agreed, noting that all councillors should sit on the committee.

During the regular monthly meeting in September, Goyetche received council’s approval to have King, and other involved parties, come to council.

Goyetche said Hurricane Dorian is not the last storm that will be experienced in Richmond County, future weather events could be more severe, and there is no time to waste in getting answers.

Deputy Warden Alvin Martell agreed and said he wanted a report about the hurricane, and what happened with all the generators purchased and distributed by the municipality.

Boucher understood the municipality paid for generator sets, but not all were used, and he wanted to find out where the generators are located.

In response to concerns expressed by Goyetche about the limited hours and resources of comfort centres set up after the storm, King said there were centres set up but they are not overnight shelters and are limited by the availability of volunteers.

Some centres were not able to open due to mechanical issues with water pumps and generators, King noted.

Goyetche told the EMO officials that some parts of the municipality do not have running water during power outages, which makes lengthy outages an emergency. And he is also concerned what could happen if resident go without heat and power during the winter.

He implored council to ensure the municipality is fully prepared for next major weather event.

Goyetche also said communication with the public has to improve, especially when telephone land lines are not working. Specifically, Goyetche wants a better system of notifying the public which centres are open in their area.

King responded that if council wants to spend the money to make community halls and centres fully-functioning comfort centres open 24 hours a day, that is up to the elected body. He said if the municipality sees there’s a need for shelters, they would have to identify the sites and make that funding request to the provincial government.

King also pointed out that the Red Cross can mobilize its personnel and resources to various areas and can work with volunteers on the ground during emergencies.

In response to a question from Richmond Warden Brian Marchand about whether generators the municipality purchased were delivered to all the sites that requested them, King said all those he knew of were used.

One significant issue with generators is that it’s not clear which facilities are compatible to run a generator as the EMO does not have all the information they need from each facility, King said.

He told council that the EMO does have meetings scheduled with some community hall committees to discuss these and other issues.

In response to questions from Boucher about how many generators were given out, to whom and which were activated last month, King said he does not have an updated list of all facilities, and which are located at fire halls.

Aside from that issue, King did bring up a problem he had communicating with fire departments in the municipality the first four days after the storm, given that phone lines were down. The only way to communicate was using his TMR-2 radio.

King was able to keep in regular contact with some members of the media and via social media like Facebook to keep the public informed of what was available for emergency services.

To further improve communication, King recommended satellite phones be placed in each comfort centre and wherever generators are located.