Cen­tral New­found­land towns re­view­ing emer­gency train­ing af­ter ser­vice dis­rup­tion

Fire de­part­ments work­ing with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to plan ex­er­cises

The Pilot - - News - BY JOSH HEALEY josh.healey@gan­der­bea­con.ca Twit­ter: @joshrjhealey

Fire Chief Vince MacKen­zie’s mes­sage to the Grand Fall­sWind­sor town coun­cil was made all the more poignant fol­low­ing the chaos of the re­cent cell­phone dis­rup­tion.

“The in­ci­dent cer­tainly high­lighted the on­go­ing need for us to con­tinue with emer­gency plan­ning within the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Grand Falls-Wind­sor,” the chief said.

MacKen­zie pre­sented a re­port to coun­cil out­lin­ing the im­por­tance of emer­gency train­ing for sit­u­a­tions like the one re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced across the prov­ince.

Coun­cil is cur­rently work­ing with the fire depart­ment to help drill their emer­gency ac­tion plan, with a po­ten­tial table­top ex­er­cise sched­uled this up­com­ing fall.

Over­all, MacKen­zie said coun­cil was very re­cep­tive to his re­port and noted com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key in any emer­gency plan­ning. He also said the fire depart­ment’s ra­dio sys­tem was in­te­gral in main­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion through­out the ser­vice dis­rup­tion. The station’s ra­dio ca­pa­bil­i­ties are cur­rently be­ing up­graded.

“We’re ac­tu­ally in the process of in­stalling a ham ra­dio op­er­a­tion here at the fire station to en­able us to be able to com­mu­ni­cate out­side of the com­mu­nity should the tele­phone net­work go down again,” MacKen­zie said.

The ra­dio sys­tem was in­cluded in last year’s bud­get.

Keep­ing an eye out

Ad­di­son Quilty, as­sis­tant dep- uty chief for Gan­der Fire Res­cue, also said the ser­vice dis­rup­tion served as a re­minder for their depart­ment to re­view emer­gency plans.

“We’re keep­ing an eye on what Vince has been talk­ing about,” Quilty said. “It was re­ally the first time we have come across an emer­gency like that.”

As of yet, there is not a new emer­gency plan for Gan­der, but the deputy chief says the depart­ment and town are work­ing to­gether to see if there is some­thing that could be done dif­fer­ently.

Through­out the dis­rup­tion, Gan­der Fire Res­cue used its Face­book and Twit­ter ac­counts to ac­cept emer­gency calls. Nor­mally, the depart­ment doesn’t mon­i­tor the ac­counts con­tin­u­ously, but Quilty said it was one way to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing the emer­gency.

When asked if the ser­vice dis­rup­tion high­lighted the need for a plan, Quilty was in agree­ment.

“Oh def­i­nitely. We need some­thing in place if peo­ple do lose their cov­er­age,” he said.

Pre­par­ing the pub­lic

MacKen­zie ap­pealed to cit­i­zens to have a safety plan in place in case of an emer­gency.

“As we rely more and more on our cel­lu­lar phones, chil­dren and the youth of today don’t know what it’s like to dial the phone or even know their home num­bers,” he said.

As a re­sult, the chief en­cour­aged fam­i­lies to go over in­struc­tions with their chil­dren should com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines go out.

MacKen­zie also noted fam­i­lies should have kits pre­pared to be able to spend up to 72 hours on their own. This in­cludes med­i­ca­tion, food and wa­ter.

“Emer­gency plan­ning needs to be done by ev­ery­body,” he said. “It’s about main­tain­ing safety in your own home.”

JOSH HEALEY/THE BEACON

Fire de­part­ments in both Grand Falls-Wind­sor and Gan­der are stress­ing the im­por­tance of pre­par­ing and mem­o­riz­ing safety plans in case of an emer­gency. The re­cent cell ser­vice dis­rup­tion has only high­lighted the need for prepa­ra­tion.

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