2020-10-14

Emergency management recommendations post-Hurricane Dorian a work in progress

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Angela Henhoeffer, Lunenburg County&#8217;s regional emergency management coordinator .</p>

Regional emergency management officials in Lunenburg County shifted their focus to personal protective equipment, business continuity and other salient issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic after temporarily hitting the pause button on progressing a series of Hurricane Dorian-related recommendations.

While emergency preparedness and planning work continues with efforts to change or establish new ways to improve response, the global health crisis and active Atlantic hurricane season create reinforced calls for the public to get ready.

"You may recall the long line-ups last year the day before Hurricane Dorian, this year residents need to plan in advance as the lineup will be longer as the capacity in stores is reduced and not all supply has been replenished as the demand was greatly increased all due to COVID," Angela Henhoeffer, Lunenburg County's regional emergency coordinator, told LighthouseNOW. "Plan now for supplies should a hurricane or other emergency arise, you will have supplies for your family and pets."

Although an experienced coordinator, Henhoeffer was about a month into leading Lunenburg County's Regional Emergency Management Organization (REMO) when Dorian arrived in September 2019.

Dorian damaged wharves, washed out roads, toppled trees, and impacted parks and trails. Wastewater infrastructure in four municipalities took a hit, including a plant in Lunenburg which was flooded by seawater.

In an after-action report prepared for the county's five municipalities, she put forward 27 recommendations for improvements, with many under the "communications" heading.

There were gaps in social media and municipal and stakeholder contact lists were outdated, the report read. "It was observed that each municipal unit shared different information with council and managers, and the fire departments felt out of the loop for communication," Henhoeffer said in the November 2019 post-Dorian report.

REMO also outlined concerns with broken online links on Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office (EMO) web site and the absence of a public alert system being used in the Dorian response.

The province's emergency management minister responded to those worries. The "public alerting system was considered during the response to Hurricane Dorian, it was determined that other communications channels used during the event were better situated to disseminate the required information," Chuck Porter said in correspondence to REMO, referring to social media and press releases as examples.

He also noted EMO's web site "changed, and some information was removed."

REMO's report touched on comfort centres, critical infrastructure, essential services, power outages, vulnerable sector residents, and other categories.

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