Opinion: Canada desperately needs a cellphone alert system

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MONTREAL, QUE.: OCTOBER 14, 2011-- A man holds a newly purchased iPhone 4s on the launch day of the Apple phone outside the St. Catherine street Apple store in downtown Montreal on Friday, October 14, 2011. (Dario Ayala/THE GAZETTE) Dario Ayala, The Gazette

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. In Quebec, unpredictable weather is a fact of life that can have devastating effects on people and property. Then there are the man-made ones such as gas leaks, chemical spills, terror attacks and child abductions.

You’re either prepared for emergencies or you’re not. Simply put, we are not. At least, not as well as we could be.

Canadians currently receive emergency warnings through every major medium except cellphones. That might seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but cellphone alerts have become increasingly necessary to emergency preparedness in an age when so many people are cutting the cords of traditional media.

Today, 85 per cent of Canadian households have mobile phones while just under a third have cable subscriptions. Even without those figures, all you have to do is spend some time on a bus or in a coffee shop and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone not glued to their phone, tablet or laptop.

This points to the necessity of expanding public alerts to include cellphones, particularly with unpredictable weather patterns and natural disasters on the rise. Emergency management officials always point to early warning systems (EWS) as the best way to prevent loss of life. It’s not difficult to imagine how an alert on your cellphone in a time of emergency could save you, your family and friends or even total strangers.

It’s worth noting that Canada is not alone on this. At a May 24 meeting in Mexico, the United Nations Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction focused on the need to shift from managing disasters to managing the risks of disaster. That included not only making EWS more effective and efficient but also coordinating government and telecom efforts to ensure alerts are universal.

In April, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it was giving telecom companies “approximately 12 months” to implement cellphone emergency alerting systems. My initial thoughts were: “It’s about time and I’ll believe it when I see it.” You see, we’ve been down this road before with the CRTC.

In 2004, the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence issued what was to be the first of many recommendations to establish a national public alerting system. In 2007, the committee adduced evidence from the CRTC’s Scott Hutton that a system featuring interruptive television alerts would be in place by 2009. He repeatedly undertook that if an alert system was not in place on a voluntary basis by 2009, the CRTC would take the necessary steps to put one in place.

But that deadline passed and Canadians had to wait another six years before the CRTC compelled broadcasters to create a national alert system. Even then, some broadcasters dragged their feet on meeting the deadline, and Bell Canada and others were still not fully compliant for several months.

Hence my skepticism about the CRTC’s latest pronouncement. Littered with the seeds of delay and obfuscation, it began with a supposedly firm deadline of next April 6, but then goes on to say that a number of kinks would need to be worked out before emergency alerts can begin. Then it ends by stating that “the Commission expects that this new capability will be available in approximately 12 months.”

Talk about a soft deadline.

The thing is, this isn’t exactly new technology. Smartphones have been in widespread use for more than a decade. The U.S. has had a cellphone alert system in place since 2013 as part of a matrix of alerting technology (cellphones, sirens, TV, radio).

I commend the CRTC for finally calling on telecom providers to get on board with cellphone alerts, but I’d sleep a little better if Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly put the full weight of her office behind the initiative too. Canadians lives may well depend on it.

Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

Kennyco@sen.parl.gc.ca

Supporting Israel’s national EMS

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It was a great pleasure for Judy and me to attend the recent Cote Saint-Luc Men’s Club Evening of Entertainment benefiting Canadian Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical services and blood bank.

The ambulance and EMS scooter that had been purchased with funds raised were on display at the CSL Aquatic and Community Centre. How exciting that an ambulance marked “Cote Saint-Luc” will be on duty in the Jewish State.

We were so pleased to participate in this extraordinary fundraising effort and play a small part in safeguarding the People of Israel. Having served in CSL EMS as well as at Urgences Santé ambulance service for so many years it was even more meaningful to take part in this important gesture in support of Israel.

Thank you to Syd Kronish, President of the CSL Men’s Club, to Michael Levine, National President of CMDA and to Sidney Benizri, Executive Director  of CMDA.

How does Cote Saint-Luc handle emergency situations?

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In my opinion:

Montrealers were rightly miffed knowing that hundreds of fellow urbanites were stranded overnight on a snowbound Autoroute 13 a few months ago. How could this happen in 2017, we asked? I ask, could such a fiasco, on a very local scale happen in Cote Saint-Luc?

On Autoroute 13 all signs point to a major breakdown in frontline coordination, in communications between agencies, in preparation (see Gazette article link below).

I have dedicated my civic life to public safety, in Cote Saint-Luc (and across Quebec), with a  goal of making our municipality the safest place around. I began early, back in high school and CEGEP, at training in matters of safety, joining St. John Ambulance, the Canadian Ski Patrol, CSL Emergency Measures Organization and the local ambulance system. Eventually I worked my way up to overseeing public safety and emergency preparedness at the local political level.

Since that time, Cote Saint-Luc has taken matters of safety very seriously, investing in training, leadership, volunteers and citizens, in equipment and services. This deliberate and systematic nurturing of a communal culture of safety has proven effective time and again.

I was active and on duty during the major flood in the late 80s, fire evacuation in the early 90s, Ice Storm of the Century in the late 90s, Y2K, more floods, heat waves, snow emergencies, barricaded shooter, downed trees and wires, gas leaks, car crashes, missing persons, bottled water distribution… And time and again Cote Saint-Luc has proven to be a model municipality, able to effectively and quickly organize, coordinate, alleviate, sustain, recuperate…

This is no accident. We have built a corps of dedicated, life-saving volunteers in EMS over the last 50 years. We have trained over 90 volunteers as our volunteer Citizens on Patrol over the last decade. We have built a professional Public Security Department to watch over our city 24/7. We have an emergency dispatch centre and a first-class Emergency Preparedness Plan. We keep it up to date and we test it.  We’ve saved our local police station more than once to ensure close proximity to, and coordination with the authorities in crime prevention and emergency response. We built a leading firefighting and prevention department (that was taken over by Montreal in 2002). We coordinate with all levels of government. We meet regularly. We practice. We keep our citizenry informed, trained, engaged.

As a ringleader in public safety I take great pride in what we’ve accomplished and look forward to continuing to make our city the safest it can be. I’ve worked alongside many fine people along the way and they all share in this great achievement. Thank you to my council-partner-in-safety Ruth Kovac and to Bryan Payne and the late Norm Adler of EMO, to Frank Albert and the late Doug Lion of the CSL Fire Department, to Hal Newman, Rick Liebman, Stephan Kallos and Jordy Reichson of EMS, to the immeasurable dedication of our EMS volunteers including Patti-Beth Lietman, Neil Michaels, Erwin Luden, Brian Goldberg, Michael Glazer, the Sager boys (and so many more wonderful people I wish I could name all here) and vCOP volunteers including Mitchell Herf, Lewis Cohen, Susie Schwartz, Elaine Meunier, Bert Rabinovitch, Phil Mayman, Morris Stelcner, David Goldsmith, Murray Genis (and again the list of marvelous dedicated volunteers, past and present goes on and on and I thank you all immensely). And finally, thanks to our City Council for its support for my vision and all we have accomplished together. (I know I inadvertently missed some important names who’ve contributed to making CSL a safer place. Please add them in comments).

We are well prepared, trained and ready. And we are always striving to learn more, to be better. We’re all in this together.

Next week is EMS Week across Canada. I take this opportunity to salute all of our dedicated volunteers in Cote Saint-Luc along with all the paramedic professionals who serve our community.

N

Probe of Highway 13 fiasco blames frontline authorities

SQ officers and safety crews try to clear up Highway 13 near Côte-de-Liesse Rd. March 15, 2017, following massive snow storm that left many motorists stranded overnight.
SQ officers and safety crews try to clear up Highway 13 near Côte-de-Liesse Rd. March 15, 2017, following massive snow storm that left many motorists stranded overnight. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

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Public Safety Week: A reminder to prepare yourself

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May 7-13, 2017

WHY A CIVIL PROTECTION WEEK?

The reason for highlighting this event was to raise public awareness about the importance of being properly prepared to face a variety of emergency situations, such as flooding, extended power outages in winter, windstorms or a house fire.

Emphasis was placed on the need for each family to prepare its own safety plan and emergency kit to ensure it can be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours in an emergency situation, until help arrives.

You are invited to accomplish the following actions to ensure your safety and the safety of your family.

Your Emergency Preparedness Guide

This guide explains in greater detail the steps Canadians should take to become better prepared for emergencies. Included are a Family Emergency Plan template and list of emergency kit items.

Check your Preparedness in a Case of an Emergency

***

7 au 13 mai 2017

Semaine de la sécurité civile

Ma sécurité : ma responsabilité!

 

Pourquoi une Semaine de la sécurité civile?

La Semaine de la sécurité civile a pour but de sensibiliser la population à l’importance d’être prêt à affronter un éventuel sinistre.

Elle se tient tous les ans pendant la première semaine complète de mai.

Cette année, elle aura lieu du 7 au 13 mai sur le thème
Ma sécurité : ma responsabilité!

D’ailleurs, le sous-thème de cette année est :

La préparation commence à la maison!

Le citoyen est le premier responsable de sa sécurité. En situation d’urgence ou de sinistre, il revient au citoyen d’assurer sa propre sécurité, celle de sa famille et la sauvegarde de ses biens.

La Semaine est l’occasion pour le ministère de la Sécurité publique et ses partenaires de sensibiliser les citoyens aux conséquences d’un sinistre, par exemple une panne de courant prolongée, de leur rappeler de faire des réserves d’eau et de nourriture non périssable et d’avoir sous la main les articles essentiels qui composent une trousse d’urgence. Les provisions d’eau et de nourriture devraient être suffisantes pour permettre d’être autonome pendant les 3 premiers jours d’un sinistre.

Côte Saint-Luc calls residents in advance of vCOP smoke detector brigade visit

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smoke_detector
Côte Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol (vCOP) smoke detector brigade will be ringing door bells and offering to check smoke detectors, replacing dead batteries and installing new smoke detectors where needed for the fifth consecutive year. And City Hall will be sending out hundreds of phone messages in advance to alert residents to these visits.
“The smoke detector brigade has begun ringing doorbells and will continue all summer,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “Please welcome these uniformed volunteers into your house as they are there to help you.”
Last week 432 phone lines in the area from Smart to Westminster received an automated phone call from City Hall to advise of the visit:

               Members from our volunteer Citizens on Patrol, or vCOP, will be ringing doorbells on Smart, Wolseley, Hudson and Westminster from April                    28 until the end of May. 

“These vCOP members are part of our smoke detector brigade service. They will be offering to test the smoke detectors in your home. They’ll also replace batteries where needed, for free.
Our vCOP members always work in teams of two. They will be wearing their orange vCOP shirt or jacket. They will also have a photo ID. 
Remember, you should always be cautious before opening the door and letting anyone into your home. If you aren’t sure, don’t open the door.
Du 28 avril à la fin mai, les membres de notre patrouille bénévole, les vCOP, visiteront les résidences de des rues  Smart, Wolseley, Hudson et Westminster.  
Ces membres font partie de notre brigade de détecteurs de fumée. Ils vous proposeront de vérifier les  détecteurs de votre résidence et, au besoin, changeront la pile. Ceci est un service gratuit. 
Nos vCOP travaillent toujours en équipe de deux. Ils portent une veste ou un chandail de vCOP orange. Ils ont aussi une carte d’identité avec leur photo. 
Nous vous rappelons de toujours exercer de la prudence lorsque vous ouvrez votre porte et laissez entrer quelqu’un chez vous. Si vous n’êtes pas certain, n’ouvrez pas la porte. 
This initiative is done in partnership with the Montreal fire department. If you are not home when they visit, they will leave a notice with information on how to schedule a visit. This is a free service.
“Smoke detectors save lives by warning people of possible fires in a home, but they can only do the job if they are working,” said Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, responsible for vCOP and emergency measures. “Too many deaths occur across Canada that could have been prevented if the house was equipped with a working smoke detector,” Nashen said.
Since 1977, the City of Cote Saint-Luc has required smoke detectors in all homes and buildings. The owner or tenant is responsible for its upkeep, including changing the battery twice a year and replacing smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old. A carbon monoxide detector is also recommended near garages and fuel-burning devices.

Rail Safety Week is about safety around railway property

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CP Rail locomotives pass trough Cote Saint-Luc every day. Stay away. Stay safe.

From April 24 through April 30, Canadian Pacific CP will conduct rail safety blitzes in communities across their network – from Montreal to Vancouver – with participation from police agencies and schools to educate motorists, pedestrians and the general public about staying safe.

“When people use railway property or tracks as walking paths, they are risking their lives,” said Laird Pitz, CP’s Vice President and Chief Risk Officer. “Rail safety requires vigilance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We are asking everyone to consider their own safety around railroad property. The impact of an incident can have tragic consequences for all concerned, including family, friends and community.”

CP is proud to be the safest railway in North America, with the fewest reportable train accidents per million train miles among all Class 1 railroads for 11 years straight.

No space for kids or teens to squeeze through at Westminster evacuation gates

While we are pleased that crossing incidents declined in Canada last year, a sharp rise in trespassing incidents means we must continue to do more. Tragically, 46 pedestrians and 19 drivers lost their lives in these preventable incidents. This is in comparison to 31 pedestrian and 14 driver lives in 2015.

CP believes that one incident is too many. That is why they are working tirelessly, along with their community partners, to promote safety in and around railway property throughout Canada.

Cote Saint-Luc is surrounded by CP Rail yards and tracks. CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen and the entire City Council remind our residents to stay safe, to keep out of the rail yards and off of their tracks. Report any damaged or missing fences along railway property. Most importantly, take the opportunity to remind children of the extreme danger in ignoring these vital safety tips.

CP Rail Police patrol in the St. Luc Yards and will issue a hefty fine to trespassers

 

·         Did you know this week marks Canada’s Rail Safety Week? Remember to Look and Listen to Live!

·         This week we’re joining @CanadianPacific and all Canadian railways in reminding people to make smart decisions around tracks and trains

·         Scary stats: In 2016, 46 pedestrians and 19 drivers tragically lost their lives in preventable rail incidents

·         Always practice situational awareness around tracks and trains to keep yourself safe

·         This Rail Safety Week, choose the safe route to school or work and stick to it. Don’t let a shortcut cut your life short

·         If you use railway property or tracks as walking paths, you risk your life. Always use designated paths and crossings

·         This Rail Safety Week, speak to your children about dangers at level crossings and railway property

 

 

For more social media content, visit Operation Lifesaver’s website at www.oplifesaver.ca

City updates emergency preparedness plan

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emergency preparedness plan 2017

 

The City of Côte Saint-Luc Emergency Preparedness Plan is one of the most important documents prepared by the elected officials and staff at City Hall. This plan sets out the framework for the protection of the people, environment and infrastructure before, during and after a disaster.

Emergency preparedness in the City is overseen by the Emergency Preparedness Committee, which I have chaired since first being elected in 1990. The committee is comprised of elected officials, staff and partners in emergency, health, social and technical services. This plan creates a process to avoid or reduce the damage and suffering caused by disasters and requires effective coordination between many internal and external resources.

 

All residents play an important role too to protect their family and home. Visit the Emergency Preparedness page at http://www.CoteSaintLuc.org to learn what you can do today to prepare for the first 72 hours of a disaster.

The City Council, staff and partners are hard at work behind the scenes, ensuring that the City is always ready and helping our residents feel safe and secure. This plan is updated on a regular basis to ensure that the City is always ready to handle any type of disaster – natural or man-made.

The City of Côte Saint-Luc Emergency Preparedness Plan addresses the preparation for, mitigation of, response to and recovery from disasters affecting the City
and its residents. The Emergency Preparedness Plan is mission-focused, as the source of the disaster is of secondary importance.

A prioritized list of threats, with the possible effects and impacts on people and on infrastructure is presented based on discussions by the City’s Emergency Preparedness Committee.

In preparing for and responding to a disaster, each group has important roles and responsibilities to fulfill. This includes elected officials, senior management, employees, volunteers and partners. A detailed training program is also presented, to allow responders different scenarios and opportunities to practice their skills, so that they are better prepared in a real emergency.

The Emergency Management Organization is divided into two important decision centres: the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and the Emergency Site Management (ESM) teams. The EOC is responsible for strategic planning, dealing with regional and provincial partners, planning for business continuity, recovery and high-level decision making. The ESM team is responsible for providing service at the scene of the disaster.

The four missions of the City are:
(1) Social Services
(2) Public Works
(3) Communications
(4) Administration & Logistics

Each of the missions is divided into specific functions or tasks, with different departments or partners designated as being responsible, partner or support.
The goal of the document is to ensure that the City is prepared to respond to disasters, whenever, wherever and however they occur. The updated plan was officially adopted by way of a public resolution at the January public council meeting. I am proud to have moved the resolution.

 

Free Press | Jan. 31, 2017 | Click to enlarge

Free Press | Jan. 31, 2017 | Click to enlarge

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