Over 50 elected officials and municipal staff from across the region descended on the Castor Community Hall on May 22nd for the second annual Regional Emergency Planning conference. Kevin J. Sabo photo

Emergency management conference held in Castor

The conference was hosted by the County of Paintearth

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Advance

Emergency management staff and elected officials from across the region descended on the Castor Community Hall on May 22nd to take part in the 2019 Regional Emergency Planning Conference hosted by the County of Paintearth.

Through a variety of guest speakers and hands on practice, the 50-plus attendees covered a variety of topics from Emergency Social Services to Hazard Inventory and Risk Assessments.

“There is no such thing as a well-run disaster,” said keynote speaker Ron Robinson, retired fire chief and former director of emergency management for the city of Medicine Hat.

“We have to make the decisions. They are the best ones we can in the heat of the moment, with the information we have at hand.”

This is the third time that regional emergency planners have met in the last year and a half.

The first time was days after an Oct. 2nd, 2017 snowstorm swept through the region, stranding motorists and leaving many areas without power for several days.

The first meeting was put together to figure out what went wrong, and what went right during the emergency, and the second meeting held in May 2018 was to follow up on those lessons learned.

This year’s meeting was to continue to follow up on those lessons, and to continue to make connections with other communities in the region.

As part of the day John Lamb, a field officer with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), spoke on upcoming changes in emergency management legislation.

“You have to adopt a management system,” said Lamb.

The emergency management system required by the Province is ICS (Incident Command System). ICS was first introduced in the 1970s and has grown.

The program, administered by the AEMA is currently being revamped, but the online components are expected to be back up soon

“2019 is a grace year,” said Lamb.

“Beginning in 2020, municipalities will be required to hold a tabletop exercise once per year, and an actual exercise every four years.”

Other requirements that will be coming in are all municipal staff will be required to train in ICS at the ICS 100 and Basic Emergency Management level minimum, and elected officials will be required to take the ICS Municipal Elected Official course.

All municipalities will also be required to appoint a director of emergency management.

Significant events keep occurring in Alberta. From the High River flooding in 2013, to the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016, to the October storm in 2017, it is not a matter if a weather disaster will strike, but more a matter of when.

Regional governments are working hard and working together to face these challenges head on.

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