Emergency Preparedness Article Misleading

Zak Nicholls

Dear Sir:

I am writing in response to an article concerning a Stats-Can survey regarding Sarnia Emergency Management. The interpretation of the results by Sarnia’s emergency coordinator Cal Gardner is wishful thinking at best, and likely a misreading that could have disastrous effects for the citizens of Sarnia, especially those in the South End, should an emergency occur.

South End residents have been told for decades now to ‘shelter-in-place’ should an emergency occur. This seems like a catch-all solution for any event in Chemical Valley. We know chemical releases and fires occur regularly in CV. With all five senses we know intimately the burden of CV industry. We do not experience a real and transparent level of communication from CV and the City.

The Stats-Can survey of 832 residents, of which 25% resided south of Wellington, brings to light certain issues, including the ability of people to evacuate the city, the lack of engagement by the City and CV industry to inform youth and children what to do in case of emergency, who is hearing the sirens, who is aware of siren testing, and where residents are turning to for information during emergencies.

In the event that an evacuation should be necessary, and the people are informed, the survey is misleading. The survey reports 93.4% of citizens have a place outside of Sarnia to evacuate to, but this is if citizens are able to travel at all. I question if emergency responders will allow it. South End residents will be most affected. The survey states, in agreement with SEM, that only 10% of Sarnia citizens will attend an evacuation centre. What is an evacuation centre anyway?

The survey states that of persons under the age of 18, only 50.3% have an emergency contact. At one time schools were a targeted group for CAER newsletters.

The stats are high for municipal siren testing awareness. 63.6% of South End residents hear the sirens in their home. This is likely an historical answer. How many people have recently heard sirens? The Monday test is often momentary, without sirens attached to it. This test is an alibi for industry and the City to say that something progressive occurs.

Media efforts to inform the public about CV emergencies are horrible. Radio stations and phone/internet alert services offer news of CV only when they deem it necessary, during regular business hours, and only when informed of an event at all. Real-time media, CV, the City, and the Ministry of the Environment, aren’t making the public sufficiently aware of CV events. Communication must improve. We must know what takes place in our neighbourhoods, and given an opportunity to respond in a healthy manner.

Finally, I would like to comment on 76.2% of residents who have three days non-perishable food in case of emergency. Mr. Gardner touted this as a measure of success for emergency planning. I suggest that 76.2% of Sarnia residents still have the means to secure three days worth of food.

Zak Nicholls

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