Saint John urged to appoint new EMO committee

A member of the advisory committee for Saint John's Emergency Measures Organization is urging city council to appoint a new committee as soon as possible.

Current committee has been inactive for six months

A member of Saint John's community advisory committee for the Emergency Measures Organization is urging city council to appoint a new committee as soon as possible.

"I can't think of any other council committee that is more relevant and more important than this one in light of the industrial development, the rail traffic, the potential for EMO incidents related to very big industries," said Gordon Dalzell.

The current committee has been inactive for six months — and its two-year term, which ended in June, has been marked by disagreement.

At-large member Horst Sauerteig, a retired engineer, raised questions this summer about the effectiveness of response plans in the event of a gas pipeline emergency.

"To my mind, it creates a danger," said Sauerteig, who has taken his concerns to the National Energy Board.

They include the fact that the system for alerting the public about a disaster includes sending emails, recorded phone messages and notifications to radio stations that are not staffed evenings and weekends.

In addition, Sauerteig contends emergency exercises that have been conducted fall short in that they respond to a gas leak and a gas plume but not a fire.

Some committee members, including Sauerteig, have requested their terms be extended into 2014, citing a shortage of meetings.

Although members were appointed in June 2011, they did not meet for the first time until late March 2012 due to personnel changes at the city.

Then, in September, members were told by Fire Chief Kevin Clifford there would be no more meetings until city council appointed a new committee.

Council has refused to extend any terms.