By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Council gave unanimous third reading to an unchanged Emergency Management Bylaw May 28. The bylaw, designed to better fit the emergency management model created by the province and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), had passed second reading May 14; however, Deputy Mayor Lisa Holmes had expressed some concerns with Council’s role on the emergency management committee and the number of councillors required to attend the meetings in an emergency.
The Deputy Mayor had expressed interest in discussing the matter with David Schaefer, Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations, prior to third reading but said she had been unable to do so prior to Tuesday night’s meeting due to her and Schaefer’s conflicting schedule. Holmes said she did look at similar bylaws from other municipalities and was comfortable with the bylaw as it was written and that the fluidity of the document would afford opportunities for modifications to be made.
Morinville’s now passed Emergency Management Bylaw provides Council with the authorization and direction to deal with emergencies in the community, including declaring a State of Local Emergency.
The day before the bylaw passed third reading, Schaefer participated in a joint emergency training scenario with Alliance Pipeline, RCMP and the Morinville Fire Department that replicated the kind of emergency the Town may be called upon to deal with. The scenario emulated a high-pressure natural gas pipeline explosion east of Morinville in Sturgeon County. Schaefer said the simulation was timely, given the then pending bylaw.
“It was a good opportunity to test those partnerships,” Schaefer said of the afternoon session, adding he filled the Director of Emergency Management (DEM) role in the scenario. “We also got to work with our staff who prepared a message on the Alberta Alert side of things. Those are opportunities we are taking advantage of in using this bylaw and practicing to make sure if we are ever having to use it we are able to utilize it.”
Although Schaefer would likely serve a significant role in the event of a major emergency, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, rather than the fire chief, will serve as DEM in an emergency. The change was put in place when the bylaw was presented for first reading in order to bring the DEM position in line with that outlined in the Town’s CAO Bylaw. The new bylaw allows the DEM to appoint a Deputy Director of Emergency Management who would be second in command in an Emergency Command Centre situation. Fire Chief Ron Cust and his department would still play an active role in any community emergency situation, but it was felt having the CAO serve as DEM would create a clearer channel of communication with Council in the event of a major emergency.
With the Emergency Management Bylaw passed, Administration will now begin a revision of Morinville’s existing Municipal Emergency Management Plan and begin to look at training opportunities for Council and Town staff. Schaefer said training would likely take place with Council after the fall election.