Being prepared for emergencies without breaking the bank

How municipal councils can prepare for emergencies at little or no cost and end up looking like heroes

emergency gibberishTORONTO, Ont. Jan. 25, 2017 /Troy Media/ – Your worship, members of council, city clerk and staff.

We have a legal obligation to be prepared for an emergency or crisis. Elected members of this body will either be heroes for being prepared when dire circumstances arise or vilified if you are not.

I’m here to suggest several low-cost or no-cost ways to be more prepared.

First, I recommend buying shipping containers. These are available new from China for $4,000 each or used in North America for perhaps $2,000. The no-cost option is to ask large companies to donate old ones they no longer need.

In these containers, we could store booms, skimmers, boots and other equipment to be used for oil spills near our waterways. On our highways, we could store gear needed for highway mishaps: first aid, towing, and even mopeds and bicycles for emergency responders.

We can also store response gear in arenas, stadiums and parks throughout the city.

We should buy drones to avoid windshield or fly-by assessments, and speed up the assessment process. These drones can also be used by police, fire and economic development officials in normal times.

Debris increases the risk of fire and flooding. I would ask public works staff to engage in fall and spring ‘saw-up, clean-up’ days to rid our city of deadfalls and trash. I’d ask the city solicitor to report on the merits and liability of having contracts, including indemnification agreements, with private individuals who own pickup trucks and chainsaws. They could also pick up general laneway garbage, if staff and contract sanitation workers can’t. So could landscaping companies. We would negotiate this with city workers.

We need a supply agreement with gasoline and diesel retailers. We could use our legislation and licensing function to require tanker trucks to accept electronic purchases on the sides of roads. The parks and public works departments could report on how to create emergency use paths in our park system for these trucks. Others could be stationed at shopping centres.

You have the power to pass a bylaw deeming street vendors able to operate on any street during an emergency. This would provide some food in time of need.

You also have the power to enter into agreements with private snowplow operators, who could be retained after a certain amount of snow falls and paid for plowing certain streets.

Critical incident stress is a challenge. Now is the time to pre-approve those who can respond to certain stress-related ailments. There’s little point in deploying bereavement counsellors for those with repetitive injury strain or high school guidance counsellors for most responders.

I advocate continued functionality. This means the component parts of our city continue to function – our educational, transport and food supply systems, to name a few.

We need distance education and telecommuting capability. And we need limited reliance on just-in-time delivery during a crisis.

You have the power to require fast-food restaurants, large food stores, stadiums and arenas to stock more food than required for the next few days or events.

You can require condos, high-rise office towers, apartment buildings, churches, and other places where people gather to have supplies and food on hand.

To enhance response times, use satellite data to study historical problem areas, location of response agencies (fire, police, emergency medical services), and distance between and among these. Some responders could use response vehicles to go to and from home, and/or have basic care supplies at home.

Finally a preparedness program for the families of responders would mean more responders would get to scenes quickly and not be as worried about their families.

Thank you.

Troy Media columnist Dr. Allan Bonner has consulted on some of the major planning and public policy issues of our time on five continents over 25 years. He is the author of Safer Cities. Allan is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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