EMO coordinator responds to concerns over Hurricane Dorian response

ARICHAT: The municipality’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO) representative responded to criticism of the response to Hurricane Dorian.

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

“I have a lot of questions myself, I haven’t got many answers from the county but I’m working towards getting all that done,” King told council.

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.

“It’s not all just on one person, we got to come more together and work more together on this situation,” King said. “We have to arrange for a lot more training between everybody.”

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.

District 5 councillor Jason 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.

“It’s something we need to plan for and it’s time for us to put in place a plan of action,” MacLean noted.

During the regular monthly meeting in September, district 1 councillor James Goyetche received council’s approval to have King, and other involved parties, come to council.

Goyetche said this was 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.

District 4 councillor Gilbert 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.

“There were comfort centres open, but they were more for warming centres,” King explained. “A lot of places did not have facilities to get a lot of people warm. It wasn’t really necessary to get warm, but they had that too.”

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.

“We should be set up and ready to accommodate people if it has to be open at night, it should be open at night,” Goyetche said. “We have to be prepared as a municipal government and a group to do this.”

The district 1 representative also said communication with the public has to improve, especially in this case when many land lines were 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.

“As far as I know, yes they were all up and running,” King said.

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.

“The ones that I did contact during the storm were the ones that were hooked-up for a generator,” King explained.

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.

He 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.

“We have to look more to the future because if communication goes down, we’re in trouble,” King added.