By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A new Emergency Management Bylaw, designed to better fit a more comprehensive emergency management model created by the province and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), unnimously passed first reading Apr. 23.
The proposed bylaw would provide authorization and direction to Council to deal with emergencies in the community, including declaring a Sate of Local Emergency. Under the proposed document an emergency is defined as: “a present or imminent threatening event that requires the prompt coordination of action or special regulation of persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people or to limit danger to property or the environment.”
Morinville’s Emergency Management Bylaw will, if passed, replace one put in place in 2010. That bylaw was at odds with the CAO Bylaw put in place the year prior in that the later bylaw designated Morinville’s Fire Chief as the Director of Emergency Management (DEM), a responsibility assigned to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in the earlier document. The proposed new bylaw would give the DEM designation back to the CAO. The proposed document allows the DEM to appoint a Deputy Director of Emergency Management who would be second in command in an Emergency Command Centre situation.
Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun said she has met with Fire Chief Ron Cust to discuss the matter and that the fire chief fully supports the change. “He would still play a key pivotal role in any disaster within the community,” Oyarzun said. “It’s putting the right people in the right places with the right skills.”
As DEM, the CAO would head the Municipal Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), a body that would consist of the DEM and those partners needed to coordinate the activities necessary to respond to the emergency. In addition to the DEM, Deputy DEM and the Public Information Officer, the agency could be made up of senior management from public works, finance, community services and fire services.
As MEMA head, the DEM would be able to call emergency meetings of the Emergency Management Committee; a group Administration is recommending would consist of all members of Council to provide greater flexibility in the case of a major emergency event.
The Mayor would serve as chair of the committee and two or more members would be required to form a quorum. The committee would meet annually to review the Municipal Emergency Plan to be brought forward to Council for approval; however, the real power of the all-Council committee is the ability to declare a State of Local Emergency.
David Schaefer, Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations, a man who is likely to serve the role of Deputy DEM, said the Alberta Emergency Management Agency would not walk in and take over a local emergency. “The local municipality is always the responsible authority,” Schaefer said. “They have field reps that will come in and assist in making decisions. They’re really our resource but they have a provincial responsibility.”
The Emergency Management Bylaw will return to Council May 16 for debate and second reading.
Above is a flow chart of how emergencies would be handled under the new proposed bylaw.