EMO wants Fredericton residents to be ready to head for hills, if necessary

The City of Fredericton is getting ready for the worst, making sure residents know what's happening in a severe emergencies and what to do, including head for higher ground.

'It's a matter of being able to disseminate as much information to the public as we can'

The River Watch program operates throughout the year in New Brunswick to keep the public informed about water levels. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The City of Fredericton is getting ready for the worst, making sure residents know what's happening in a severe emergency and what to do, including head for higher ground.

The worst could be anything from severe weather to flooding from a malfunctioning Mactaquac Dam.

At a meeting this week, councillors heard from the local Emergency Measures Organization about how it would respond to worst-case scenarios within the capital region.

"Like anything, we were focusing on communications," said Wayne Tallon, EMO director for the city.

"It's a matter of being able to disseminate as much information to the public as we can."

EMO has also been busy increasing its social media and online presence.

Its notification systems during an emergency include an old-fashioned siren system, as well as television alerts. Officials are also working on a cellphone alert system that would "ping" to alert people there's danger and to evacuate.

Wayne Tallon, EMO director for the City of Fredericton, said officials are doing more to increase communication before an emergency event occurs. (CBC)

But where do people go from there?

"The old-fashioned saying, 'Head for the hills,'" Tallon said. "Head up York Street, Regent Street, Smythe Street."

He said EMO also has the capacity to change street lights so traffic going uphill get green lights, and traffic going downhill get red, to reduce the number of people heading downtown during emergencies.  

Police would also be situated in key areas throughout the city to direct traffic.  

"Obviously, there would be some chaos but it's to manage that chaos as best we can."

Bad weather a theme

A large tree blocked Fredericton's George Street after post-tropical storm Arthur in July 2014. (Michael Stuart/CBC)

Weather events have been getting more severe, Tallon said.

He referred to flooding along the St. John River every spring and storms such as post-tropical storm Arthur, which hit the capital city and areas across the province in July 2014.

"In the past, we were preparing a 48-hour kit, now they're preparing a 72-hour kit because of elongation of some of the events," he said.

"It's events that will cause elongated power outages … so people need to be prepared to meet those challenges," he said.

The city has also been doing a lot of work replacing culverts throughout Fredericton to reduce the damaging effect of storms, he said. 

Tallon also talked about EMO's recent arrangement with the Salvation Army on St. Mary's Street, which will be used as a shelter during emergencies. EMO has provided the building with a backup generator during major weather events.

"You prepare for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "We need to prepare for those types of situations."