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Is Sudbury ready for a disaster?

If climate change really does lead to more frequent extreme weather events, then Greater Sudbury is one of those communities leading the charge in being better prepared for disasters.
If climate change really does lead to more frequent extreme weather events, then Greater Sudbury is one of those communities leading the charge in being better prepared for disasters.

The city is on that path thanks to the Greater Sudbury Climate Change Consortium, which held a press conference last week to update the community on its efforts to be ready for extreme weather-related disasters.

Formed in 2009, the consortium brings together and taps the talents of groups and organizations from city hall, and the education, mining and health sectors, as well as the Nickel District Conservation Authority (NDCA). The goal: ensure that when disaster strikes, Sudbury is ready.

“We need to start preparing for what is going to happen (in) the future,” Greater City of Sudbury chief of emergency services Tim Beadman said during the event at Tom Davies Square. “Climate change adaptation is about preparing your actual community for what is going to be transpiring over the next five, 10 and 15 years.”

Climate change can be a serious threat to any community, and Greater Sudbury isn’t immune to its effects, Beadman said. This makes it all the more important for the city and its partners to marshal efforts to deal with virtually any eventuality.

He called efforts “an integrated approach” with different agencies that has led, thus far, to a hot-weather response plan and a flood management plan. A community evacuation plan is nearing completion. The consortium is also mapping potential hazards, and identifying critical infrastructure that would be at risk in a disaster situation.

A key component of the strategy, NDCA chair Bob Rogers said, is to target vulnerable segments of the population, who, due to their circumstances, tend to be more at risk in emergency situations.

“Climate change impacts more than just our physical infrastructure,” said Rogers. “It impacts people, particularly the people who are vulnerable.”

Social Planning Council executive director Janet Gasparini points to the severe rainstorm that pounded Sudbury in July 2009 as a prime example of what happens to vulnerable people in the face of a disaster. Rainfall flooded streets and basements in areas of the city with high rental populations, areas where people with lower incomes are more likely to reside.

“The reality is climate change and the impact on people is very disproportionate in terms of who loses the most and who has the most to lose,” Gasparini said.
There is plenty of work to be done to ensure vulnerable people can handle the next crisis, she said.

At the same event, the Nickel District Conservation Authority took time to acknowledge a former board member, Dr. Liette Vasseur, on being named the recipient of the 2011 A.D. Latornell Conservation Pioneer Award. Vasseur will receive the award in Alliston, Ont. in November at the annual A.D. Latornell Conservation Symposium.

“This award, in some ways, represents also a high level of cohesion of the City of Greater Sudbury in terms of trying to move ahead with environmental issues,” Vasseur said, speaking at the event via teleconference.

“Sudbury has become a model for many other communitites in Canada, and probably the world, in how a community can start working together, moving ahead, trying to make sure everyone can be involved in helping create capacity to adapt to climate change. What Sudbury is doing right now is … a high level of inspiration for other cities.”

Vasseur is a biological sciences professor at Brock University. Prior to Brock, Vasseur was associate vice-president of research at Laurentian University.

While in Sudbury, Vasseur served on the NDCA general board from 2004 to 2008.