Next week is Emergency Preparedness Week

By Cecilia Nasmith

With flooding throughout Ontario, it is particularly apt this year for Cobourg to declare May 6 to 12 as Emergency Preparedness Week, emergency planner Shannon Murphy said at this week's council meeting,

This year's community message is, “Your preparedness helps us all,” Murphy said, adding that there are three components of this – make a plan, have a kit and be informed.

As of that evening, she counted 10 declarations of emergency in the province, and another 19 communities that have not yet made the declaration but have significant flooding.

In the event of an ice storm like the one that hit Northumberland several years back, she noted, your ability to remain in your home for 72 hours would mean you don't have to venture out before emergency crews have performed clean-up and safety operations.

“The only way that happens is if they are prepared – if they have those things in their home and don't need to venture out,” Murphy said.

When making your plan, look at every angle. Are your children in a school that might resort to a lockdown or follow plans of their own that you should be aware of? Do you have aging parents who depend on you to ensure their safety?

And it's not enough just to put together a kit, Murphy said.

“I have seen kits with expired food. I have seen kits, like mine, when I thought I had crackers but the kids stole them for their soup.”

Review it periodically to make sure food and medications are not expired. In fact, she recommends changing it around entirely twice a year.

As for being informed, some 11,450 town residents are registered for the Rapid Notify service offered in conjunction with Cameco.

“Use technology to your advantage to stay informed,” she added, naming some apps that are easily available, including one specific to Northumberland County.

The big ice storm pales in comparison to Canada's largest peace-time evacuation in 1979 (second in North America only to the evacuation in advance of Hurricane Katrina in 2005). The catastrophic train derailment in Mississauga took place at 11 p.m. and, due to the hazardous materials, police were going door-to-door to evacuate people by 2 a.m. They anticipated having the people out of their homes 12 to 24 hours, Murphy said, but it was six days later when the last of the 76,000 residents returned home.

Cobourg residents can be confident town staff are ready for emergencies at any time, but this year she is issuing a staff challenge to ensure they personally (and their families) are emergency-ready – eight small challenges that earn points when completed. The department with the most points gets a pizza lunch.