ST. PETERS: As clean-up and restoration efforts wind down, the former Progressive Conservative – now Independent MLA for Cape Breton-Richmond – says it could have been a lot worse.
Considering what happened in Halifax and in other coastal communities, Alana Paon believes her riding made out fairly well with damages from Hurricane Dorian.
“Certainly, there were a lot of issues of power being out for long periods of time, longer than I think we had anticipated and our communication being completely cut off as well,” she told The Reporter. “Everyone was preparing for a Hurricane Juan-type scenario but I think this hurricane had a different affect, as it was wider in scope.”
Last week, Paon said she checked with individual people to see where the heaviest damage was and stopped at some of the comfort centres to make sure they had what they needed.
“I specifically stopped in at the St. Anne’s Centre, their ER was supposed to be open on that particular day, so I wanted to make sure they had what they needed,” Paon said of her rounds last Monday. “At the St. Anne’s Centre, the power was out, and all of our lines of communication were down, so we didn’t have landlines, we didn’t have our cell phones.”
The centre has a back-up generator and the ER was scheduled to open at 7 p.m., but Paon said when she dropped in around 5 p.m., they couldn’t get in touch with the on-call doctor.
“We’re just fortunate enough that there was a resident doctor available who was able to stay in the apartment downstairs, but it begs the question about why there is not a system in place,” she said. “If there is a storm situation like this, that especially emergency departments always have some sort of back-up service they can utilize to get a page out to the doctor on call, to make sure they are available to be contacted at all times in case communication lines go down, like they did in this storm.”
As the week progressed, power outages became more and more of an issue. Paon said the public can only ask so much of those doing the clean-up work, restoring power, helping the elderly, and keeping comfort centres open.
“There was a variety of different issues going on here from a restoration point of view, so it’s really difficult to being an outsider looking in and criticizing the excellent work these people were trying to do,” she said.
“But, I always think there is an opportunity to have a debrief afterwards saying how we can be better the next time around.”
NDP Business spokesperson Claudia Chender says more is needed from the telecom companies following storms, because in 2019, Internet and cell phone services are an essential service.
“People should be able to expect that in the event of outages, the companies that provide these services will deliver detailed and timely reports on what the impacts are and what restoration work is underway,” she said. “The Liberal government should require big telecommunications companies to provide the public with the same level of information being provided about power outages in the province.”
Paon believes there is room for improvement in regards to what needs to be done from an Emergency Management Office perspective when all lines of communication go down.
“That was a whole different version of the perfect storm,” she explained. “When your cell phone towers go down, and your landlines also go down, not only can you not call out for emergency assistance but even the hospital can’t contact the doctor in charge when the ER is supposed to be open, that needs a lot of reflection.”