Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit May 24, 2012 - 6:58 am

Emergency committee takes shape in Iqaluit

Catastrophic power outages led to disaster response conversations

DAVID MURPHY

The RCMP is teaming up with eight other organizations in Iqaluit to be better prepared when disaster strikes.

Initial talks with major departments in the city about how to deal with a catastrophic power outage has now spawned an “emergency preparedness advisory committee” that will discuss who plays what role in any worst-case scenario situation.

Representatives from different groups met at a May 17 meeting to talk about how the city would cope without power, and what responsibilities different groups would hold when a disaster hits. 

This got the conversation moving onto other disaster strategies that could occur.

“How do you deal with a massive flood? How do you deal with a standoff in the city? Who can we utilize?” said RCMP Sgt. Kevin Lewis.

“There’s going to be many different things that come up that we’re going to be able to resolve and put on the table and figure out how we’re going to deal with these things as a group in an educated manner.

“We’re going to have a representative from each resource there, and they’ll be able to say, yeah, we can do that or, no, we can’t do that,” said Lewis.

This creates a more dynamic approach to problems that arise in the community on an everyday basis, too, says Lewis. A stronger relationship is established between the departments that can come in handy for future incidents.

“We’re working together for a common goal,” Lewis said. “It helps break the barriers between different units.”

The different units currently involved in disaster response discussions are Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of National Defence, the City of Iqaluit, Fire and EMS, Government of Nunavut Emergency Response, Qulliq Energy, the water board, the hospital, and, of course, the RCMP.

But there will be more players added to this group at its next meeting on June 14, Lewis said.

News of this initiative regarding emergency preparedness when a power outage occurs arose Tuesday when Iqaluit suffered a power outage for almost six hours.

George Hickes of Quilliq Energy said he’s still not sure why one of the city’s generators failed, but another generator was down for regular scheduled maintainance, which didn’t help the situation. 

“It just took a while to get the back-up generation to be able to take care of the whole community,” said Hickes. “The focus was more on getting everything running versus what went wrong with the generator.

A power outage like this one isn’t considered a catastrophic disaster, says Lewis. It’s categorized as a disaster when it occurs during the colder months, and for a lengthier period of time — days or weeks depending on temperatures.

But Hickes says when there are power outages, discussions with the RCMP are always productive.

“There’s always communication ongoing all the time with the RCMP and Quilliq and emergency services and everyone else involved,” he said. “Any time where a situation arises where you haven’t seen the planning for occurrences that have never occurred before, we always adapt.”

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