BY ANDREW SMITH
NORTH PERTH – As the clean-up effort from last week’s ice storm continues across the municipality, Mayor Julie Behrns said it serves as a reminder for residents to be prepared.
Behrns said the decision to put the municipality’s emergency preparedness plan into effect came after a meeting of department heads on Friday afternoon as the extent of Thursday night’s ice storm became clear.
“We took an opportunity to have a meeting to evaluate the state and conditions we were in,” Behrns said. “It was decided to implement our emergency preparedness plan was the best solution for us.”
The decision was also based on the widespread loss of power across the area, Behrns said.
“We did, I believe at that time, have an update from Ontario Hydro that it may be a few days before power would be restored to all of our residents,” she said.
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The municipality relied on social media and radio broadcasts in getting the word out to residents about road closures, the availability of warming centres and other important updates, which Behrns said stresses the need for residents to include a battery-powered radio in their emergency kit.
“We felt that implementing the emergency plan was the best way to ensure that we were getting information out to our residents,” she said. “The municipality has limited resources when it comes to going door to door to inform residents.”
The state of emergency for North Perth was finally terminated on Tuesday, April 16, at 5 p.m. after another meeting of the emergency operations committee, with another update from Ontario Hydro. According to Behrns, Ontario Hydro’s crew of linesmen swelled from 200 to over 1,000 over the weekend, with some working 16 hour days to restore power to residents.
“They’ve never experienced something like that in many, many years,” Behrns said. “They understand the seriousness of the situation.”
Looking back, Behrns feels that calling the emergency was an appropriate action for North Perth, and that it should be a reminder for residents to keep a 72-hour emergency kit of food, medication and supplies in the event a more serious event ever strikes.
“We have worked many years to develop an emergency plan for severe weather,” Behrns said. “I think it’s important that people know they are required to be prepared themselves, we can’t stress that public awareness enough.”
Christel Ivanyshyn, emergency management coordinator with Perth County, was also thankful that the ice storm was somewhat lenient in choosing when it decided to test how prepared residents are.
“Thankfully we were dealing with April temperatures and not January temperatures,” she said. “I think we would have seen a little more action at the warming centres if that had been that case.”
Ivanyshyn said the clean-up effort may take months to clear debris and trim damaged trees, but that there are always ways to learn and improve a response after every emergency.
“The best way to test a plan is to actually put it into practice,” she said. “Thankfully it was done safely and no one was hurt, so it was a good opportunity with little risk to the community.”