Central Newfoundland towns reviewing emergency training after service disruption
Fire departments working with municipalities to plan exercises
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.”
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.