After a powerful windstorm blew its way through Quebec in mid-December, leaving thousands without power and causing significant damage, local citizens began to ask questions about the Town of Brome Lake’s (TBL) emergency plan. The TBL Public Safety Department addresses some of these questions and provides thorough information on the plan that is set in place for the security of citizens in the community.
Since 2001, every municipality in Quebec has been required to have an emergency plan in place by the Loi sur la sécurité civile. These plans address the security of citizens, the risks of disaster, vulnerable communities, and available resources. The TBL Public Safety Plan was revised in 2019 after a new law came into effect.
“It was updated and revised, and we were one of the first towns in the MRC to do that,” said Mayor Richard Burcombe. “It had been requested by civil protection and Donald Mireault, director of the fire department, and Marc-Antoine Fortier, the assistant director, did a great job. We practiced it in 2019, we did a theoretical response, and I was very satisfied with it.”
According to documents sent to Brome County News from the Public Safety Department, measures in the plan include the organization of teams for specific tasks, giving each person a responsibility- such as who determines the alert, organizing resources like equipment and lodging that are needed for the event, and collaboration with the Sûreté du Québec as well as different levels of government and aid organizations. There are also detailed procedures for each type of disaster.
Everyone in the community plays a part in the emergency plan, including schools, hospitals, community organizations, businesses- who must also have their own emergency plan set it place, the MRC, government resources at the regional and provincial levels, and the municipality.
“As mayor, of course, I have my position in the plan and we have the public works, the fire department, the first responders, everybody who will contribute has their role. It goes from the top, all the way down and everybody knows their job and their position.”
Citizens also play a key role. “It starts with families looking after families, neighbours looking after neighbours, and then if there is no other plan available, that’s when the emergency plan comes into effect with the community centre and the Red Cross. We have a partnership with Red Cross that manages deployment for shelters for large emergencies, but we also have a certain number of beds at community centre and they would be in operation if need be.”
The emergency plan supports citizens in various ways such as alerting the population in case of an impending disaster, maintaining daily contact with the meteorological service, provision of a team of firefighters in the fire station, surveillance via cameras, distribution of drinking water, and communications with community organizations. “It’s a community effort. The plan is there, in collaboration with the Red Cross and other departments involved in civil protection. We are very well equipped.”
Burcombe added that the community centre opened its doors to make beds available the weekend of the windstorm, but it wasn’t used. “I was contacted to see if they should stay open after 5 p.m. that night and I said yes, as long as there is demand, keep it open. Finally, at 11 p.m. they closed the community centre. There was a maximum of six people that came to charge their phones and go on the internet or whatever reason and it was available, but it wasn’t used.”
Measures are also set in place for cases of evacuation like emergency clothing, shelter and food, a casualty collection unit, an information centre, transportation, daycare, animal care, etc. and the plan is all about maintaining these essential services among others, but Burcombe emphasized that citizens should also be prepared. “Under the civil defense, there is a preparation for 72 hours and after that it’s a different story, but people are supposed to be prepared for 72 hours in a catastrophe. I’ve been prepared since 1981. If someone isn’t prepared for climatic change with everything going on and things getting worse, people better get prepared.”
More importantly, this plan applies to everyone and no registration is required unless residents want a quick alert sent directly to their phone in the case of an emergency.
“Registration was asked for this summer to get emergency alerts on a cell phone,” the mayor said. Not everyone has a cellphone, but you can get it over a landline too. We had like 4,500 or 5,000 I think that registered.”
Registrations for the alert can be made at https://lacbrome.ca/residents/health-and-safety/public-alerting-system/