East Ferris, Ont., overhauls community emergency plan
By David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Municipal staff in East Ferris, Ont., have overhauled the community emergency plan, which is a document required for all municipalities as per the Provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Although the municipal plan is checked annually to ensure all contact information is current, this is the first time since 2007 staff went through the document line by line to ensure everything was up to date.
“It was a big update,” noted Jason Trottier, East Ferris’ chief administrative officer. Staff compared the municipal plan to the latest version of the province’s Emergency Act to ensure all references to specific sections of the Act still stand correct, and also to update any definitions.
The Act defines an emergency as “a situation or impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property,” caused by forces of nature, diseases or health risks, or accidents.
Municipalities have the authority to declare an emergency within their borders, although once declared, it must inform the provincial government is has done so. A declared emergency “opens the door to greater decision-making powers,” Trottier explained. For instance, in an emergency, the town might need to purchase something to help the situation. Usually, that purchase would have to go through the tendering process, but in an emergency, staff could go ahead and make that purchase.
One notable change to East Ferris’ plan is the fire chief will no longer serve as the Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC). The idea for the change was that if the emergency involves a fire, it will be difficult for the chief to tend to that while fulfilling the duties of the CEMC.
When trouble comes to town, and an emergency is declared, the municipal emergency control group takes action, and will set up a control centre in the Municipal Office. The location is prime as it offers a lot of working space and has a back up generator if the power is out.
If the municipal office is not available to use, the second location to establish home base is the community centre.
Each year, the municipality runs through an emergency scenario to put its plan to the test. Past scenarios included a fire at the town hall, and an ice storm that crippled municipal mobility. Running a test situation is provincially mandated, and East Ferris staff find it helps iron out any wrinkles in the plan in case of a real emergency.
With a newly overhauled plan on the shelf, Trottier is confident that “if something happens, we’re ready to go.” All of East Ferris’ plans and policies, including the emergency plan, can be found on the municipal website.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media.
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