Last week, 29 representatives from Rainy River to Atikokan, including one from Pickle Lake, gathered at the Emo-La Vallee Arena to take part in a three-day workshop on emergency management.
Acting as host, the Municipality of Emo arranged for paramedics, fire department personnel, municipal officials, and members of the various emergency management boards to take part in a training program offered by Woody Linton, fire chief and community emergency management co-ordinator for the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls.
Talking about—or even thinking about—the potential for a disaster in our district probably would elicit a wide range of responses, from “It can’t happen here” to a sense of foreboding or mild panic.
Most people just don’t want to think about the possibilities of a disaster happening to their family or community.
The truth is, however, that we are not immune to an emergency of some kind happening here in Rainy River District.
Back on Aug. 5, 2006, as some may remember, an F-5 tornado hit Warroad, Mn., resulting in an unbelievable amount of destruction.
Linton watched as the tornado struck the RV camp on the edge of the lake.
“It was coming straight at me,” he recalled. “It was terrifying to watch huge trees being ripped from the ground and RV campers being tossed into the lake.
“It was by the grace of God that the tornado did not continue across the border into Canada,” he added.
Emergency management legislation in Ontario requires that “every municipality shall formulate an emergency plan governing the provision of necessary services during an emergency, and the procedures under and the manner in which employees of the municipality and other persons will respond to the emergency, and the council of the municipality shall, by bylaw, adopt the emergency plan.”
“The only way to survive a disaster is to be prepared for every possibility,” Linton stressed.
That was the purpose of the three-day workshop in Emo.
The participants were introduced to a fictitious Canadian town named Trillium. Through the use of role-playing and simulations, those on hand were taught the basics of risk assessment, creating emergency plans, the importance of telecommunications, and how to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
They were taught how to respond to an emergency in their own community, as well as how to assist neighbouring communities in dealing with—and recovering from—a disaster.
“The communities in the Rainy River valley are in a unique position of being able to help each other when it comes to emergency management,” noted Linton.
The training program also encouraged the emergency management teams to instruct the public in their communities on the need to be prepared for a potential emergency or disaster.
“I want to stress that it is not just the fire, police, and ambulance personnel that are responsible for being prepared to deal with an emergency,” Linton said.
“It is every single person, every single family, that needs to be prepared.”
Each family, he continued, needs to get organized and prepared to be self-sustaining for at least 72 hours. Experience has shown it can take that long, or more, to mobilize a significant relief effort during an emergency.
The 72-hour preparedness message commonly is used across North America by first responders (i.e., fire, police, and paramedics), governments, and relief agencies.
Canadians, in all communities large and small, are encouraged to be prepared to cope on their own for at least the first 72 hours—that’s three days—of an emergency.
This allows emergency workers to focus on people in urgent need. To support their efforts, we all need to be prepared to look after ourselves.
Start today. Prepare an emergency kit and make a plan. Prepare your family so in the case of a major emergency, like a flood or blackout, you are ready to take care of yourself and your loved ones for at least 72 hours.
If you’re not sure what you should have in the way of emergency supplies or equipment, visit www.getprepared.ca
You can download a booklet that will help you and your family make a plan.
If you don’t have a computer and wish more information, call 1-800-O-CANADA (1-800-622-6232).
One neat little device Linton says he carries with him in the car and keeps at home is called an “all-hazard radio with weather alert.”
He said it just sits on a shelf at home and only starts beeping when there is a weather watch or warning. In the car, he explained, the radio automatically searches out the nearest radio tower in order to warn you of approaching weather systems.
You have to remember to test it once a week to keep it active, but it’s well worth a few moments of your time.
At a reasonable cost of $35, this little electronic device, in the event of an emergency, just might give you the extra few minutes you need to get to a safe location.
As the government website states, “By being prepared to take care of yourself, you allow community resources to be used more effectively during an emergency—and you help keep your own family safe, too.
“Simply put, emergency preparedness begins at home.”