P.E.I. hospitals, police, utilities preparing for emergencies as Fiona closes in
Power outages began Friday night
Police services, hospitals, power utilities and fire services were getting ready for potential emergency situations Friday as Hurricane Fiona made its way closer to Prince Edward Island.
Island emergency rooms are preparing for potential injuries before, during and after Fiona makes landfall, said Dr. Trevor Jain, a disaster medicine physician in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital emergency department.
As people prepare for a storm, there are sometimes motor vehicle collisions, as well as injuries resulting from accidents with ladders, he said.
"Then we see a patient population when the hurricane actually hits and those unfortunately can come from structural collapse if the structures aren't made to withstand those winds."
Sometimes people attempt to go outside in a hurricane and get hit with debris swept up in the wind or fallen trees, Jain said.
"Post-impact we see trauma, we see electrocution from downed power lines, people playing with power lines they shouldn't. Falling objects when they go to clear things, lacerations from chainsaws," he said.
Shortly after storms pass is when emergency rooms typically see a surge in patients, Jain said, adding sometimes people with chronic illness need to access services they couldn't during a hurricane.
"Infrastructure is everything ... we have some talented folks with EMO that have done planning," he said. "I would be concerned about our vulnerable populations which would be our homeless and I am glad to see some shelters are popping up around the province to help them."
Jain said he believes the health-care system on P.E.I. has the capacity to give care to people who will require it.
"There is going to be a little pain probably next week, but we are going to get through it."
Safety on the roads
P.E.I. RCMP are reminding people that with the unpredictable weather this weekend, there could be flash flooding, pooling water on roads and downed power lines.
"These type of weather conditions can also affect the response time for emergency operations for police, fire and ambulance," said Sgt. Chris Gunn.
"If the public does not need to travel this weekend maybe delay their travelling plans to ensure their safety."
Fire and generator safety
The P.E.I. Fire Marshals Office is reminding people to make sure their fire alarms work as well as carbon monoxide detectors because of the increase in people using generators during power outages.
"If you are using a generator, make sure you are using it outdoors, not in a garage or basement," said the province's fire marshal David Rossiter.
Generators can be used for appliances such as a freezer, but people should never use a generator to power their entire home without the help of an expert, he said.
"You could electrocute a linesman down the line that's trying to give you power. So, if you are looking at trying to use a generator to generate everything in your house, make sure it is done by a licensed electrician."
The Fire Marshals Office was in contact with all fire services on the Island on Thursday, he said.
"We're looking at the fire service to be our eyes and ears on the ground when this storm hits so we will be getting, hopefully, updates from them."
Securing city infrastructure
The City of Charlottetown has been busy securing job sites, removing materials which could fly around in the wind and checking catch basins to try to prevent localized flooding, said Scott Adams, manager of public works for the city.
"All we can do in preparation is make sure those catch basins are clear, make sure they are not full with a lot of sediment just so that we have more capacity to store more water in the system before it does overflow," Adams said.
Trucks are also ready and public works staff will be out with sandbags and barricades to close roads which may flood, Adams said.
Emergency generators in Summerside are being checked to make sure they are topped up with fuel and in working order to ensure water will continue to flow in the city if the power goes out, said Greg Gaudet, director of municipal services for the City of Summerside.
"Our electric utility… our system is fairly resilient in high winds but you never know how much damage that will happen so we have personnel ready and going and also have contacted external partners and other utilities to look at supplementing our resources should we need them."
Electric crews aren't typically sent out to deal with outages until after a storm passes, Gaudet said.
"There's a period of time where there won't be any restoration services other than bunkering down on 911 services to make sure they function in the city," Gaudet said, adding the public works department is ready to respond to emergency situations.
Summerside does have a generation plant fully topped up for the hurricane which can dispatch diesel fuel, but it can't generate all of the city's needs and usually power is given to areas of the city on a rotating basis, Gaudet said.
Maritime Electric is planning for the worst case scenario and has adjusted schedules to deal with potential storm impacts, said Kim Griffin, spokesperson for the utility.
"We're planning as if it is a Dorian-plus," she said, referring to the post-tropical storm that caused Island-wide damage in 2019.
The utility is preparing for similar impacts such as downed trees and power lines, Griffin said.
Griffin said power outages are likely on Saturday and it will be hard to determine when power will be restored.
"If we only have four or five hours of good daylight to assess that, we could be in a situation where customers could still continue to be out Saturday night into Sunday," Griffin said.
By 10:15 p.m. Friday night, just over 1,000 Maritime Electric customers had already lost power. The Maritime Electric outage map is updated every 10 minutes.
Additional crews from Newfoundland and Ontario are arriving to assist local crews, Griffin said.
While it's uncertain what exactly Fiona will bring to the Island, everyone should be preparing for the worst, Griffin said.
With files from Brian Higgins, Angela Walker and Jessica Doria-Brown.