P.E.I. EMO reviewing emergency plans with COVID-19 in mind
Emergency Measures Organization reviewing plans for upcoming storm season
P.E.I.'s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) is reviewing how it responds to emergencies in light of the ever-changing situation with COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic presents.
As hurricane and winter storm seasons approach, the organization is assessing how it responds to emergency events and how it will plan around public health guidelines.
Some of the current plans under review include individual emergency preparedness, emergency shelter spaces and training protocols.
"Anything we would have to respond to in an emergency is generally not an easy scenario that we have to deal with, and now it's going to be that much more complex," said Tanya Mullally, P.E.I.'s emergency management co-ordinator.
EMO is responsible for co-ordinating emergency plans under the Emergency Measures Act.
It recently received a positive review on its response to post-tropical storm Dorian, but the report also said improvements could be made in areas like communication and emergency response training.
Prepare emergency kits
Mullally is encouraging Islanders to make sure they have an emergency kit set aside, packed with enough batteries, water and food to last a minimum of 72 hours.
Mullally said it has never been more important to have a kit ready for an event.
"They could expand that three-day supply to maybe a five-day supply," said Mullally.
She said there are also new items she recommends people should add to their kits. In addition to bottled water, batteries and canned food, she suggested adding personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to the kits in case people have to leave their homes and head to a shelter.
"If they do have to leave their home, they have that stuff close at hand."
One of the other challenges is how emergency shelters will be used. Charlottetown police Chief Paul Smith said the public health measures, and the presence of COVID-19, complicate housing people at emergency shelters.
"You'd certainly want to look at, how would you screen people prior to them coming in? What do we do if the people have symptoms?"
In order to follow public health guidelines, including physical distancing, shelter space needs to double in size.
EMO is considering the use of hotels and conference rooms across the province, but Mullally encourages all municipalities to update their operational plans for emergencies with COVID-19 in mind.
Municipalities and cities are reviewing emergency plans as well, taking on additional measures to accommodate COVID-19 public health guidelines.
Smith also said Islanders should plan further in advance for emergency events such as storms.
COVID-19 restrictions mean there are capacity limits at grocery stores and other retailers, and Smith stresses Islanders be prepared.
"We all procrastinate and leave things to the last minute. In the age of COVID, you really can't do that," said Smith.
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With files from Wayne Thibodeau