Councillor lauds new tool to co-ordinate emergency response

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli saw neighbourhods in his ward devastated by a 2018 tornado. He's now lauding a new emergency preparedness tool intended to help community members and the city band together in times of crisis.

Coun. Keith Egli saw tornado tear through his ward in 2018

Downed trees litter Ottawa's Arlington Woods neighbourhood on Sept. 23, 2018, two days after a tornado hit the area. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor who saw parts of his ward devastated by a tornado in 2018 is lauding a new emergency preparedness tool intended to help community members and the city band together in times of crisis.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli called for better emergency response co-ordination in the aftermath of the Sept. 21, 2018, tornadoes, one of which tore through his ward and severely damaged the neighbourhoods of Craig Henry and Arlington Woods.

A draft version of the tool went live Monday. Residents can offer feedback until May 28.

"What we learned from [the tornado] was that there's a lot of good community groups out there — community associations, church groups — that want to help and did help," Egli said.

"But at the end of the experience, they [asked for] a guidebook or a toolbox, so that we can be more organized from the get-go — so we can take all those good intentions and put them to work much more quickly and much more efficiently."

'Who do you call?'

Six tornadoes blew through the Ottawa-Gatineau area that day, striking not just Egli's ward but also the Dunrobin area and Gatineau's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood.

In the immediate aftermath, Knoxdale-Merivale residents set up temporary safe spaces at churches and formed groups to clear away debris, Egli said — but those activities included risks the city had to manage simultaneously.

It's that kind of scenario that the tool will ideally help co-ordinate, he said.

"It's all about better partnership, better communication, and having ... a better sense of what you need and can do after something awful like that happens," Egli said.

"You're not sort of standing around trying to figure it out. You have a plan, and you can hit the ground running."

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli is urging Ottawa residents to weigh in on the draft version of the emergency preparedness tool, which went live Monday, so that it can be as 'robust' as possible. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The tool also guides the initial response to other emergencies like ice storms, heat waves, widespread floods and even earthquakes. It also helps families come up with their own emergency plans. 

As Egli notes, when disaster strikes, it's not immediately clear which emergency service — be it fire, police or paramedics — to connect with right away.

"You're sitting down to dinner, and then a few minutes later the roof of your house is gone, or your car is [smashed] by a tree. Who do you call? Which city agency should you be speaking to?" he said.

"Things like that would be helpful for people, so they know where to go."

Using lessons from tornadoes, city debuts new emergency preparedness tool

CBC News Ottawa

3 days ago
Ottawa Coun. Keith Egli, whose ward was severely damaged by a tornado in 2018, says a new emergency preparedness tool will help community groups and the city coordinate their responses and develop a “guidebook” ahead of future emergencies. 1:05

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