Emergency Management Bylaw passes second reading

Volunteers and Town of Morinville staff do final sorting and loading of materials gathered in response to the Slave Lake disaster. A new bylaw looks at how Morinville would handle a major emergency – Morinville News File Photo

By Stephen Daofe

Morinville – Council gave unanimous second reading May 14 to a new Emergency Management Bylaw designed to better fit the emergency management model created by the province and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).

Morinville’s Emergency Management Bylaw provides Council with the authorization and direction to deal with emergencies in the community, including declaring a Sate of Local Emergency.

The bylaw puts the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer as the Director of Emergency Management (DEM) rather than Morinville’s Fire Chief as has been the case in the past. Administration said the change was 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. The Fire Chief will still play an active role in any community emergency situation; however, assigning the DEM position to the CAO is believed to create a clearer channel of communication between the DEM and Council in the event of a major emergency.
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 necessary activities to respond to an 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 made up 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, which would be brought forward to Council for approval. The real power of the all-Council committee is the ability to declare a State of Local Emergency if it is warranted under the bylaw.

Some concern over Council’s role

Councillor Lisa Holmes expressed concerns with Council’s role on the committee. “There are a lot of courses on emergency management that I’ve taken,” she said, adding Council members on the committee should be educated into those procedures and that perhaps the committee should consist of two Council members and the mayor.

Oyarzun said currently only the Mayor sits on the emergency committee and that the plan is to ensure all members of Council are prepared and keeping in line with the AEMA plan. Reviewing the policy requires two; however, only one member is required in the case of an actual emergency.

Holmes also took issue with the management phrasing of the committee and recommended it be an advisory committee since Council is not actually managing anything.

Councillor Holmes’ concerns will be expressed with Morinville Director of Corporate Operations prior to the bylaw returning May 28 for third and final reading.

A motion to give the bylaw third reading May 14 was defeated 5-1, Councillor David Pattison the only member advocating for third reading.

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