Emergency preparedness was on the mind of one O’Leary councillor following Hurricane Dorian.
During the town’s council meeting on Sept. 11, Darren MacKinnon asked council to approve the purchase of signs at the cost $240 that would indicate to residents during extended power outages that the town complex is open as a warming shelter. He suggested strategically placing the signs, like along Main Street or at the roundabout at O’Leary corner, to inform people that the building is open during emergency situations.
Mr MacKinnon made the request after residents raised concerns that many of them were unaware that the town complex had been set up as a warming shelter following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Last week, the building had been open on Sunday and Monday as a warming shelter after Dorian, but Mr MacKinnon said it was not well utilized by residents, probably because they were unaware it had been set up as a shelter.
“We got into a little ruffle, I sense, because communication was down, power was down, peoples’ phones were probably dead, not a lot of people knew we had the service offered,” he said. “I think if we do that, it’s a small price to provide to give some comfort to our residents. I think we do it and be prepared for next time.”
Mr MacKinnon said the town also needs to get an emergency preparedness plan in place for events like Dorian.
The new Municipal Government Act does mandate that municipalities need to have an approved Municipal Emergency Management Program in place.
CAO Bev Shaw told council they did pass an emergency measures bylaw as required, but had fallen short on finding those key individuals who would be responsible for enacting the town’s plan during an emergency.
Council discussed hiring an individual who would be responsible for overseeing the town’s emergency measures during an emergency situation.
“We need to find the right person, if we get into an emergency, who would be paid to be in charge of this situation,” said Mr MacKinnon.
Mr MacKinnon said there is too much risk involved for the town to do nothing.
“At the end of the day, we have to have a plan,” he said.
Ms Shaw said she would contact the province’s EMO to ask for suggestions on how council could go about recruiting someone for that position.