By Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol
May 7-13 is Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada
This event, alongside the one year anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfire gives us an opportunity to reflect upon our personal and community emergency plans. Central Alberta is not immune to disasters. Each of us has a responsibility to ask ourselves, “Is my family prepared?”
Public Safety Canada offers excellent resources for families and individuals to make a plan for self-sufficiency for 72 hours. The website www.GetPrepared.ca has all the information needed for the preparation of a household plan tailored to your family’s unique needs, as well as checklists for the creation of an emergency kit. Hard copies of these resources may also be picked up at no cost at the Town Office.
All communities need volunteers to step forward long before a disaster occurs. Our local fire department and the Red Cross frequently seek new volunteer members. If you want to make a long term contribution to our community, I encourage you to contact the municipal office about opportunities with the Blackfalds Fire Department. Perhaps the work of the Red Cross is of interest to you; visit www.redcross.ca to learn about the training that they offer and how their organization and volunteers provide a positive impact during emergency situations.
Effective planning at the community level is vital to the successful management of an emergency. On April 19, town staff participated in a day of professional development that included a tabletop exercise featuring a rail derailment scenario with evacuation. These exercises give staff and first responders the opportunity to become familiar with emergency plans and processes, as well as to interact with each other in a setting where information can easily be shared and questions can be asked. Additionally, I will be attending the annual Disaster Forum conference from May 9 through 12 to learn from other municipal experiences in rail, weather and fire emergencies.
I am very proud to be the current chair of the Lacombe Regional Emergency Management Partnership (LREMP). This group is comprised of 11 area communities. These diverse communities – the County of Lacombe, the City of Lacombe, The Towns of Blackfalds, Bentley and Eckville, the Villages of Alix and Clive and the Summer Villages of Gull Lake, Birchcliff, Half Moon Bay and Sunbreaker Cove – all have unique resources that they bring to the table and they have worked hard together to develop a solid response plan to potential threats that could come to pass in our region. All member communities are actively training staff and volunteers, as well as participating in mock exercise scenarios in order to improve the effectiveness of the Lacombe Regional Emergency Management Plan. This grouping of local governments also works with many area partners including industry, businesses, Alberta Health Services, local school boards, Canadian Pacific Railway, and utility companies. No single entity will be able to manage a disaster alone – it takes many willing partners to have comprehensive plan. The LREMP members are also putting together an emergency social services plan to augment the existing plans and resources. The aim of this emergency social services plan is to identify where reception centres may be located in the region in the event of a disaster and to share knowledge and build capacity in the member areas.
The communities of Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the communities of Southern Alberta that were affected by the 2013 floods and Slave Lake are all at different stages of recovery from dynamic emergencies. We can all learn from the experiences of our fellow Albertans.
It is extremely important for all citizens to become proactive partners in emergency planning – make a plan for your household, assemble an emergency kit and learn how you can be a part of the solution should disaster strike.
By Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol