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The CBC Halifax Explosion Site


Main Page > Connections > Disaster Management

Disaster Management

Much of disaster management is common sense, but as Emergency Measures coordinator Barry Manuel says, “it’s common sense under uncommon stress.”

That was as true in 1917 as it is today, but today emergency and disaster response has become a specialty of its own.

Emergency Measures Organizations , or EMOs, are an important part of modern society. They help coordinate other emergency agencies: fire and police departments, medical personnel and groups like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Saint John Ambulance--all groups that played a role in the 1917 disaster.

Across Canada and in most of the western world, cities and businesses are required today to have emergency plans to cover a wide range of events, including natural disasters like floods and storms.

In the wake of the World Trade Center bombings on September 11, 2001, terrorism and its effects are concerns as well.

Some changes are small but important. Remember how Nova Scotia's fire departments sent firefighting teams to Halifax after the Explosion? Much of their equipment was useless because they used different sizes of hoses, which couldn't be connected to city fire hydrants.

Today, cities across the country share standards on most such types of equipment. All municipalities are required to have disaster plans . So are institutions and businesses.

Emergency measures officials say every household and every individual should have a disaster plan. They offer tips on what people should do.

September 11, 2001: 7000 Guests for Supper

“All of a sudden, we found out we were having 7000 people in for supper.”

That’s how the emergency measures coordinator for Halifax Regional Municipality described what HRM faced in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Barry Manuel was one of the many people who organized food, shelter and consolation for the 7000 people stranded at Halifax International Airport when the skies over North America were closed.

Tom Murphy of Canada Now in Nova Scotia provides this look back at how Halifax responded to the crisis, and the CBC.CA archive has the broader picture.

Did you Know

A Romance of the Halifax Disaster, came from an unlikely source. Its author was Lt.-Col. Frank McKelvey Bell, a militia officer who was the senior district medical officer in Halifax. Bell chaired the city's medical relief committee.

Page Feature: Case Study: Swissair Flight 111

There are many parallels between the Halifax Explosion and the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Nova Scotia in September of 1998.

As in 1917, a seismograph measured the time and impact as the jet crashed into the sea, and local people pitched in to help emergency workers and grieving relatives as they arrived.

But the way such disasters are investigated is very different today.

There were 229 people killed in the crash. Searchers were on the job for weeks, and human remains were tested for DNA. Every passenger was identified.

Investigators retrieved 98% of the plane. It was in millions of pieces 55 meters under the ocean surface and the work took months. The investigation, which would have been unimaginable in 1917, cost about $57 million Cdn.

As the investigators worked, they issued periodic bulletins ordering changes to aircraft around the world. Their final report was issued in 2003. has collected stories about the Swissair disaster and investigation at indepth: swissair flight 111.

A group of researchers at Dalhousie University tracked the long-term psychological effects of the disaster on people near the crash site.

Many of their findings are similar to what some researchers and historians have written about survivors of the Explosion.

As Jennifer Macdonald reports, those effects can last for years.

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