LOUISDALE: The second of two forums on emergency preparedness in Richmond County was held last week with many community stakeholders in attendance.
Hosted by the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre, the event was the second of its kind since Hurricane Dorian hit the area in early September, leaving thousands without power for days.
Michele MacPhee is the seniors’ safety and social inclusion coordinator, based out of the community health centre located in L’Ardoise. She says she received many calls from seniors who had been in their homes without water or any method of communication as a result of the storm that impacted both cell phones and landlines.
“So it was really worrisome for a lot of people and then there’s the people who don’t have anyone checking in on them. So we want to ensure that we’re creating a collaborative response to an emergency event and not forgetting about the people who might be isolated in the community,” MacPhee said, moments before the forum began at the Louisdale Lions Den.
With Hurricane Dorian as the catalyst, MacPhee reached out to the various stakeholders in the county to begin the conversation. Attendees of last week’s session included representatives from community centres and facilities, seniors groups, fire departments, health organizations, as well as individuals and local business owners. No elected councillors or senior municipal staff were present, but a report will be sent to the municipality.
Karl Nightingale, a retired health administrator with a background in community development and facilitation, led the meeting. He shared a memory of an emergency event in which an abundance of teabags were ready and available but cups were not, by way of noting that a willingness to get things done needs to be met with an equal amount of planning and coordination.
The forum began with a presentation from the municipality’s emergency management coordinator. Adam King, a member of two local volunteer fire departments, took over the role – a casual position approved for 20 hours a month – in June 2019 and had only begun the task of updating the emergency measures plan when Hurricane Dorian made impact. The days that followed did not go according to the plan, which was adopted in 1990 and most recently amended in 2009, as he was unable to reach many important contacts.
King said he soon discovered that the contacts made available to him were out of date. He added that information he requested about training of municipal staff had not been answered and remains unanswered, points he made when he appeared before Richmond council in October.
“I was calling people who haven’t been alive in three or four years,” he said, noting his contacts in the fire service are “what saved me.”
“For me during Dorian it was all dumped on my lap to do it all and it’s not supposed to be that way. The county wasn’t prepared for it. No place in the province was really prepared for Dorian.”
He used his time at the forum to outline the roles and responsibilities of council and municipal staff, including his own duties, and noted that a new emergency plan, including up to date contact information, as well as appropriate training, are among his priorities.
The discussion included many questions about the availability of appropriate generators for community halls should they need to become emergency comfort centres, as well as the best ways to inform the public about available resources and how to access them. On the topic of educating the public on ways to prepare for extreme weather events or prolonged power outages, a member suggested an Emergency Preparedness Day that would involve students and could include a mock disaster training exercise.
Recommendations from the meeting – from the categories of facilities and clubs, organizations and services, and individuals – will be brought to municipal council in the future, as was information from the first forum held in November. For more on the response to Hurricane Dorian in Richmond County, go to: https://porthawkesburyreporter.com/emo-coordinator-responds-to-concerns-over-hurricane-dorian-response/.