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Archive for May, 2016

Fort McMurray – The Next Phase

CaptureThe fires around Fort McMurray will be the largest disaster on Canadian soil in history. Since May 2nd, the fire has expanded rapidly covering an area of over 241,000 hectares, the size of roughly one-third of the Greater Toronto Area. The fact that the fire destroyed 2400 houses and buildings and displaced nearly 90,000 people also makes it a human tragedy. Losing all your belongings and memories must be a devastating feeling. The moment that the city will be opened up is getting closer. The expectation is that the government will implement a phased approach. For example, those who work in essential services will go as the first group. Another group is the specialized engineers and insurance adjusters. Many of them are currently handing out cheques to policyholders in surrounding safe shelters. Once Fort McMurray is open to them, they will need to assess the damages to all affected homes and businesses. In some neighbourhoods, the losses are catastrophic and in others, there is only light smoke damage. The moment the city opens up there will be safety and security concerns. In many instances, properties will require some form of protection as it may not be livable, but may still contain valuable content. Also, a thorough inspection must be conducted to determine the damages, and the scene cannot be tampered with. Support in this next phase may also center around housing, food, cleaning and other basic needs. These services can be provided in the form of temporary camps with bedding and linens, kitchen trailers, shower facilities, laundry trailers and other equipment.

It is not only Western Canada that is experiencing a high amount of fires. Recently, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry reported 45 fires that have burned over 85 hectares of land in Northern Ontario so far.

Dr. Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta, thinks this might be just a taste of things to come. Fire is a normal part of many ecosystems but the fire regime is changing in Canada, as warmer, dryer conditions, due to global warming, increase the chances of more frequent and intense wildfires. We’re also putting ourselves more at risk from fire by moving into naturally fire-prone environments in ever larger numbers.

Both of these factors will oblige us to learn to live and co-exist with fire, and find ways to reduce our risk and exposure when it comes.” (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/quirks-quarks-for-may-7-2016-1.3570026/fort-mcmurray-and-the-future-of-fire-1.3570153)

Many remote mines and oils sand operations have taken measures to protect their facilities against the destruction. Vast areas around the plants are cleared, so there is no material for the fire to consume. However, they still depend on functioning cities where their workers live and highways are used for transportation, products, and equipment.

The events of Fort McMurray will spark debates over how to protect vulnerable areas.

 

 

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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People Helping People in Fort McMurray

Fire seen from the highway in Fort McMurray. (Serghei Cebotari)

Fire seen from the highway in Fort McMurray. (Serghei Cebotari)

Since joining the emergency fire scene division at ASAP Secured back in 2009, I’ve seen a significant amount of buildings lost due to fires or other large disasters. The stories I’ve heard from those involved and the damage that occurred was unbelievable. Many of the fires involved three houses or multi-residential locations such as condos or apartments. There were a few occasions when the disaster took out a block or town square, but those were mostly caused by tornadoes. I have never seen a fire cause as much damage as it has in Fort McMurray.

When visiting fire sites, I am always amazed how quickly and effortlessly the community rallies to support those who were affected. People offered space in their homes, went door to door to gather food, supplies and even toys for the children who were involved. Most families didn’t have time to collect any of their belongings and only had seconds to make sure that everyone got out safely. No one ever thinks that a fire will affect them. It is important to talk with your family about a fire plan and to practice it on a regular basis.

When I heard on the news what other communities around Fort McMurray and all across Alberta were doing to help those who were evacuated, it didn’t surprise me at all. It is great to see not only a province but an entire country come together to help those in need. But there is still a lot that needs to be done. Below are some ways that each of us can contribute:

DONATE MONEY

  1. If you want to donate to the Red Cross, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fires Appeal. Alternately, you can donate $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333 or donate $10 by texting FIRES to 45678. Be careful: Some scammers are posing as the Red Cross asking for money on social media. Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is matching all donations made to the Red Cross for the Fort McMurray Wildfires.
  2. If you want to donate to the Salvation Army, you can give any amount through this link: Alberta Fire Response.
  3. If you want to donate to Save the Children, you can give any amount through this link: Fort McMurray Emergency Wildfire.

OFFER ACCOMMODATION

  1. If you need a place to stay, or are looking to take in some evacuees, check out these Facebook groups: Fort, Fort McMurray evac relocation help group.
  2. Airbnb has waived all service fees for those affected by the fire, and there are already over 140 places listed on the site for free.
  3. Those able to house displaced people can also sign up at ymmfire.ca

HELP PETS

  1. The Calgary Humane Society is taking donations; you can give here: Fundraiser in Support of Fort McMurray.
  2. The Edmonton Humane Society is also taking donations; you can give here: Fort McMurray Wildfire Donation form.
  3. Those looking to house people’s pets, help unify lost pets with owners, and generally assist with animal rescue should check out this Facebook page: Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance

DONATE FOOD AND ITEMS

  1. If you want to donate items such as blankets or clothes, check out this Facebook group: Fort Mac Fire Donations. Make sure you’re only giving things people actually need. People often donate things after a disaster that aren’t needed, and sometimes actually get in the way of vital supplies.
  2. Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is collecting new shoes, towels, socks, underwear, diapers, baby wipes, and toiletries. Drop off items at: Hangar 2: 3631 – 56 Ave East, Edmonton International Airport.
  3. Edmonton’s Food Bank is collecting donations. Food can be dropped off at any major grocery store or fire hall.

VOLUNTEER

  1. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is inviting volunteers to sign up here.
  2. Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is looking for volunteers (must be 16 or older) at a number of locations throughout Edmonton. Volunteers are particularly needed at the airport, as that location is running 24-7. Follow their Facebook page: Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society, for the latest updates.
  3. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can sign up here.

*Source: Macleans “Want to Help Fort McMurray? Here’s How.”Zane Schwartz http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/want-to-help-those-fleeing-fort-mcmurray-heres-how/

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Fort McMurray Wildfire – Testimonial to a Well Executed Emergency Response Plan

fortNo one ever wants to have to deploy an emergency response plan. The reality is when disaster strikes, every second counts. The Alberta Provincial Government has had to put their emergency service and business continuity plan into action, having to deal with the Fort McMurray wildfires. The quick deployment provided a safe and orderly evacuation. It is evident that the Alberta government was prepared; “Based on lessons learned that we have learned from Slave Lake and from High River, we have teams with an immense amount of experience in doing this,” says Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management. The Alberta government had preset defined plans, agreements, as well as memorandums of understandings that allowed the execution of the emergency response to act immediately with a focus on three key elements:

Phase 1. Safety of People

Phase 2. Stabling and Preserving Infrastructure

Phase 3. Re-entry of Residents and Businesses

Some evacuees are questioning whether local and provincial authorities could have done a better job of coordinating evacuation efforts. Fort McMurray residents said they were only given seconds to leave their homes. Others described panicked police officers and emergency service personnel who sometimes didn’t seem to be steering evacuees in the right direction, away from the fire. Even with a complete and well-defined emergency response plan, when the disaster strikes – every second counts to get perspective on what needs to be done in order to put the plan into play.

The Alberta government has had support as a result of their many agreements and memorandum of understanding. Many companies are working to ensure preventative and proactive measures are immediately launched and deployed including; transportation companies, oil and gas industry, military, federal and provincial governments, energy and infrastructure, Red Cross, first responders and emergency support groups as well as real-time voluntary support.

While the government is dealing with the Fort McMurray’s current landscape, they are also assisting residents with resource centres, insurance and financial assistance, and healthcare services. Edmonton and Calgary have also provided support and offered education assistance for displaced students.

The Fort McMurray Wildfire is a heroic testimonial to the success of an emergency response plan. The 911 response and action, managed to evacuate residents and save the city core infrastructure.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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