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City launches Emergency Preparedness Week

BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN heidi@northernlife.
Firefighter Terry Laroque helps his colleague Mark Gobbo into a chemical protection suit during Emergency Preparedness Week drills.

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Greater Sudbury citizens need to be prepared in case of a hazardous chemical spill at one of the city’s many industries, or on a nearby highway or rail line, says the city’s general manager of infrastructure and emergency services.

“We’re a rail hub, and we’re a road hub, so we have even that which isn’t our own city’s making (chemicals) going through our city. Also, with Inco, Falconbridge and their supporting industries, there are a lot of chemicals that are used here,” said Alan Stephen, speaking to reporters Monday at the launch of Emergency Preparedness Week, which runs May 7-13.

He encouraged citizens to learn how to “shelter-in-place,” or barricade themselves safely inside their homes, businesses, schools or vehicles should a dangerous chemical leak into the environment.

“Should we have an aerial hazardous material spill where the material is being carried through the air, people need to understand not to be outside. Get the kids inside, get in the house, close all the windows and doors,” said Stephen.

Most often, people will hear about a chemical spill on their radio or television. They should also take action if they hear an alert horn blaring, notice an unusual smell, hear an explosion, or see smoke, fire or a vapour cloud.

At home, they should close and lock all windows and exterior doors, wet several towels and place them at the base of doors leading to the outside and turn off fans, heating and air conditioning systems.

People should also locate their family’s emergency preparedness kit (which should contain items like water, a battery radio, a flashlight and ready-to-eat foods) and go to an interior room without windows, avoiding the basement if possible.

Duct tape and plastic sheeting should be used to seal all the cracks around the door and any vents into the room. Listen to Greater Sudbury’s official emergency broadcaster, CBC Radio One 99.9 FM for information and instructions.

More information about staying safe during chemical spills and assembling an emergency preparedness kit is available by looking at the city’s Emergency Preparedness Guidebook, which can be downloaded at or found at any Citizen Service Centre or city library.

Inco already has a public awareness campaign about chemical spills, and collaborated closely with city staffers as they developed a plan to teach citizens about emergencies, said Tom Mehes, Inco superintendent of emergency preparedness.
For many years, Copper Cliff residents have been encouraged to ACT (always go indoors, close all windows and doors and turn off the furnace and air conditioner) if they hear the emergency horn blaring, he said.

During chemical spills, the city’s emergency management plan will go into effect. One part of this plan is the new Hazardous Materials Response Team, which can respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.

The team, which is made up of firefighters, rail workers and miners, is trained to identify, monitor, contain and stabilize leaks. Equipment like chemical protection suits, a decontamination tent and self-contained breathing units have been purchased for the team with provincial and federal funding.

Over the next five years, every community in the province must bring their emergency planning up to par, said Stephen. There are three levels of emergency preparedness in Ontario – essential, enhanced and comprehensive.

Greater Sudbury is about a year away from reaching the comprehensive level, which would entail having a detailed plan for every type of emergency, he said.


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