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County well prepared to handle emergency situations

Updated: Jan 9

January 9, 2024 -

Checking all the boxes and making certain everyone is prepared for an emergency is the purpose of Essex County’s Emergency Management Preparedness Plan.

At the most recent regular session of Essex County council, EMS Deputy Chief Ryan Lemay pointed out that the province requires the county to send in its plan by the end of the year.

“Emergency management is a managerial function charged with creating the framework to reduce vulnerability and cope with disasters,” explained Lemay.

When it comes to planning for an emergency, Essex County has geographical specifics including being surrounded by water, experiencing extreme temperatures and, specifically for Amherstburg residents, proximity to a nuclear plant.

The detailed report to county council includes a flood response plan which could mean ice jams or failure of dams or flood protection works. 

The 62-page plan with regards to the DTE Fermi Nuclear Power Plant duplicates a lot of what the Town of Amherstburg already has in place.

“It is very comforting for Amherstburg that not only are we concerned with the nuclear response at Fermi 2, but it’s also comforting you included it in your emergency plan,” said Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb. “It is in both plans, we are very confident.”

In regard to a nuclear emergency, in 2016 Amherstburg amended the primary zone of concern from 23 km down to 16 km. 

The Town of Essex and the City of Amherstburg are designated host municipalities in case of evacuation and if there is an emergency the Province of Ontario is responsible for the overall direction and control of off-site action.

First to be contacted if there is a nuclear emergency would be the County’s Community Emergency Management Co-ordinator Dan Metcalfe followed by Amherstburg’s mayor, CAO and then the Medical Officer of Health.

LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche had a specific concern about extreme heat warnings and said that they are not always followed especially by those who are out on playing fields.

“It seems our public doesn’t know how to handle it,” she commented.

Extreme heat warnings are issued when there are two consecutive days where the daytime temperature exceeds 31 degrees C. 

Meloche acknowledged that local organizations make the decisions to whether or not the temperature is too hot to proceed.

“Is there another step we can take at this level?” asked Meloche.

According to Metcalfe, having certified coaches helps but he added that it is not just the severe temperature that is a concern, but storms that come up quickly as well.

“Our organizations have to be up to speed so that our children are safe,” said Metcalfe. “We do a fairly good job but we can improve on it to keep people informed.”

As part of the county’s annual Emergency Management Preparedness Plan that has to be submitted to the province, the county must host training exercises.

According to Lemay, one was done in November in the county chambers and it was timely as far as what happened in hospitals this fall.

“We have simulated a ransom and cyberattack on the County of Essex. We were able to utilize our business continuity plans,” said Lemay.

By Fred Groves

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