Expect the best. Plan for the worst.
For generations to come, Lesser Slave River locals, neighbouring municipalities and the world at large will be talking about what happened to Northern Alberta in the spring of 2011. This major environmental disaster dealt a devastating blow to the Lesser Slave River region, but valuable lessons on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster were learned at every turn.
Every town, county and municipal district in Alberta has its unique threats and weak spots. Near misses and critical events sometimes occur, and our shared responsibility as managers of these communities is to prepare for these situations and mitigate their effects as effectively as possible. From front-line firefighters to office administrators, every municipal employee has a role and a responsibility during times of crisis.
72-Hour Emergency Kit
No one knows for sure when disaster will strike, but we can all be prepared. Create your own 72-hour emergency kit, and you will have the necessary items to help you and your family until emergency responders can reach you. Below are items you may want to include in your kit.
- Download the MD's 72-Hour Emergency Kit Checklist
- Download the Government of Canada's Emergency Preparedness Guide
|(3-day supply of non-perishables per person required)
- Protein/granola bars
- Trail mix/dried fruit
- Crackers and cereals
- Canned meat, fish and beans
- Canned juice
- Water (4L per person, include small bottles to carry with you)
- Change of clothing (short- and long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks, undergarments)
- Raincoat/emergency poncho/jacket
- Spare shoes
- Sleeping bags/blankets/emergency heat blankets per person
- Plastic and cloth sheets
- Hand-crank flashlight or battery-operated flashlights/lamps
- Extra batteries
- Waterproof matches
- Manual can opener
- Dishes and utensils
- Radio (with spare batteries/hand operated crank)
- Pen and paper
- Axe/pocket knife
- Duct tape
- Basic tools
- Small stove with fuel (follow manufacturer’s directions for operation and storage)
- First-aid kit
- Toiletries (toilet paper, feminine hygiene, toothbrush)
- Cleaning supplies (hand sanitizer, dish soap, etc.)
- Medication (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, children’s medication, etc., and 3-day supply of prescription medication)
- Pet food and supplies
- Garbage bags
- Toys/reading material
- Legal documents (birth and marriage certificates, wills, passports, contracts)
- Insurance policies
- Cash in small bills
- Credit card/s
- Prepaid phone cards
- Copy of your emergency plan and contact information
Keep ready-to-go kit items in a backpack, duffle bag or suitcase, in an accessible place, such as a front-hall closet. Make sure your kit is easy to carry, and everyone in the house knows where it is. Take it with you if you have to leave your house so you can be safe.
- 4L of water per person
- Food that you don't have to keep cold
- Manual can opener
- Plastic/paper plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Change of clothes
- Card with emergency contact information and the number of someone to call who lives out of town
- Pet food and supplies for at least three days
- Small first-aid kit
- Personal ID card
- Personal hygiene items, soap, hand sanitizer
Store medicine you usually take near your ready-to-go kit.
- Update your kits every six months (put a note in your calendar/planner) to make sure that food, water, and medication are not expired, clothing fits, personal documents and credit cards are up to date, and batteries are charged.
- Small toys/games are important; they can provide some comfort and entertainment during a stressful time.
- Some items and/or flavours might leak, melt, or break open. Dividing groups of items into individual Ziploc bags might help prevent this.
Municipal Emergency Preparedness Considerations
- Train all staff and Council on emergency response procedures. Ensure your team is adequately prepared to deal with demanding situations, emotional stress and physical exhaustion.
- Foster a culture of respect and ownership within your workplace. In a time of crisis, individual initiative and decisiveness are imperative.
- Document everything; scribe from the moment of a potential risk. Use voice notes so that nothing is missed.
- Take a five to ten minute break every two hours. During a prolonged disaster situation, clear heads will prevail.
- Ensure that all staff have proper identification at all times.
- Don't ever let a culture of complacency set in, and don't ever think it can't happen to you.
- Have a communications strategy in place. If you don't, others will be established that you may have no control over.
- Information in a crisis is generally unclear and ambiguous. Try to communicate simply, clearly and consistently. Have a direct chain of command for messaging.
- Make sure you're getting the word out on all progress. People will be hyper-vigilant for even the smallest piece of information.
- Identify and maintain regular contact with key agencies. Ensure you know how to contact key individuals and organizations after hours.
- Have a strategy in place for providing essentials like food and shelter for emergency personnel and support crews who arrive on site.
- Utilize external incident command and emergency response personnel. These people are highly trained and emotionally detached from the given situation. Augment these teams with local resources.
- Maintain a current list of essential service providers such as merchants, gas stations, campgrounds, portable toilets, etc.
- Plan for the rescue and relocation of abandoned pets and livestock.
- Have a good information management system in place. Know who your residents and businesses are and how to contact them at a moment's notice.
- Evacuate hospitals and long-term care facilities sooner versus later.
- Put residents on a two-hour evacuation notice at the earliest possible opportunity. This gives them adequate time to collect personal effects and prepare themselves emotionally.
- Contact the evacuation centers that assisted with the Lesser Slave River crisis (such as Westlock or Athabasca) and ask for input on how to properly manage a reception facility.
- Beware of those looking to profit from disaster. Scrutinize all spending and purchase orders despite a state of local emergency.
- Establish finance operations immediately to later augment disaster recovery reporting. Contract an accounting firm if necessary.
- Maintain replicated servers off-site so data can be properly backed up and easily retrieved.
- Have a robust geographic information (GIS) system in place. Knowing the lay of the land will prove essential.
- Invest in radio communications equipment. Ensure staff know where radios are located and how to use them.
- Test your back-ups. If it's not tested, it's not a back-up.
- When resources are committed to one event, ensure that adequate reserves are brought in from other areas.
- Know where and how to get alternate water if yours runs out.
- Wherever practical, ensure residents play an active support role. Local knowledge will be invaluable to external emergency personnel.
- Encourage residents to maintain emergency kits at home, and to have an emergency response plan in place.
- FireSmart your landfill infrastructure.
- Be prepared to operate waste management systems manually for several days in the event of a power outage.
- Store excess fuel on-site just in case.
Life, Work and Leisure in Lesser Slave River
Legendary Lesser Slave River
On May 15, 2011, large parts of Lesser Slave River were affected by wildfires in the area. Winds pushed the flames into the Town and surrounding communities, destroying many houses and businesses. The actions of the MD and its residents, and as their stoic resolution to rebuild from the ashes, are a living testament to the region’s “Rugged & Real” motto. Visit the Municipal History
section to learn more about our region's rich heritage.