Nova Scotia

Inverness County to beef up its emergency preparedness

The Municipality of the County of Inverness is taking steps to improve its emergency preparedness, after hundreds of people were left without power, water or telephone service for days in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

Hundreds of people were without power, water and phone service following Hurricane Dorian

People were filling up jugs of water on Sept. 9 from a spring near Whycocomagh, N.S., due to water shortages caused by post-Dorian power outages. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The Municipality of the County of Inverness is taking steps to improve its emergency preparedness, after hundreds of people were left without power, water or telephone service for days in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

Large sections of the rural county in Cape Breton were without power in the days after the storm. Hundreds of people were also without water, as municipal water plants in several communities didn't have electricity to pump and treat water.

Although a number of comfort centres had been set up in volunteer fire departments so that people could warm up, get free water and charge their devices, officials said it was difficult to let residents know what help was available.

"We had failed phone systems throughout the municipality," said the county's chief administrative officer, Keith MacDonald.

"There's certainly already identified gaps in cellular service, so communicating to individuals when the power is out, so that they know where warming centres are, proved to be very difficult."

Dorian battered large parts of Nova Scotia earlier this month after arriving as a Category 2 hurricane before being downgraded to a post-tropical storm as it made landfall near Halifax.

Inverness County chief administrative officer Keith MacDonald says the effects of Dorian underscore the need for better emergency preparedness in the county. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The task of developing a communications plan for the county will fall to the new director of infrastructure and emergency services for the municipality. David Coulombe starts work in mid-October.

The role was renamed from the director of infrastructure and public works, following an organizational review in the county in 2017.

MacDonald said the review found the county needed to beef up its emergency services plan and response, and that was borne out in Dorian's aftermath.

"As we've seen through the hurricane, with its widespread and long-term power outages, the municipality will be taking steps to ensure that we are better able to respond to those types of situations."

David Coulombe will direct the new department of infrastructure and emergency services for the Municipality of the County of Inverness. (Submitted by the Municipality of the County of Inverness)

He said the new director will be responsible for overseeing that planning and will also oversee the hiring of a new emergency services officer.

Such planning will also include mapping out evacuation routes, in the event of a major forest fire or other type of disaster, said MacDonald.

He noted that the Canso Causeway, the only road link between the mainland and Cape Breton Island, is in the county's jurisdiction.

"So that also poses some risks in case of emergencies, on how to evacuate individuals if that causeway is closed," said MacDonald.

The county has also set aside $250,000 to purchase generators for the municipality's water pumping and treatment stations, so the plants can supply water during power outages.

The number of generators, and their locations, will be determined once the municipality receives responses to a request for proposals, MacDonald said.

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