People, get ready: planning for disaster as a community



Kate Aley

We all know that being prepared for an unexpected emergency as individuals is vital. How to be prepared as a community seems less clear. I asked communications agent Dominic Labrie about what we now have in place to help keep the people of Pontiac safe. Does the Municipality currently have a disaster plan?

Municipality of Pontiac (MoP): Yes, right now it is in phase 1.

P2020: When was it created?

MoP: It was adopted by the municipal council in February 2016.

P2020: Are all municipalities required to have an official disaster plan by law?

MoP: Yes it’s mandatory under clause 194, Loi sur la Sécurité Civile (LRQ, ch. S-2.3). Toute municipalité doit s’assurer que sont en vigueur sur son territoire, et consignés dans un plan de sécurité civile, des procédures d’alerte et de mobilisation ainsi que des moyens de secours minimaux pour protéger la sécurité des personnes et des biens en cas de sinistre. Our plan (phase one) was approved by the Quebec Public Safety Department in January 2016.

P2020: What kind of situation would be considered an emergency and what would be considered a disaster?

MoP: This is the official distinction between the two:

P2020: What kinds of disasters does the plan prepare us for: fire, earthquake, prolonged power outages?

MoP: For now, it’s a general plan for any kind of disaster. Over the next months and years, we will have to develop specific action plans for specific risks.

P2020: In the past, has the MoP had to utilize its disaster plan?

MoP: No. The biggest challenges in the recent years were the microburst storm (2014) and the subsequent collapse of the highway at Ch. Alary.

P2020: How can people find out what is in the plan? Is it on the website?

MoP: For now, the plan in an internal tool for the staff.

P2020: Shouldn't we all already know what the plan is? If the power goes out we can't call the MoP office. If the road washes away, we can't get to the MoP office...

MoP: In that kind of situation, we will use media (TV, radio, website, etc.) to contact people. In the next phase of the plan, we will develop more sophisticated modes of alert and mobilization procedures for stakeholders and the public.

P2020: What kinds of things can people do to prepare for an emergency in their own home?

MoP: The best “basic” public references are here:

Here is the municipal organigram:

P2020: So, you are working on the next phase of the plan now?

MoP: Our next step is to have a meeting with our staff. They will be asked to spend several hours per year to develop the plan in their attributed sector of responsibilities (eg. volunteers, management, procurement, etc.). Ben [Kuhn, general director], the Fire Department and I will work on coordination.

P2020: Should you have public input on that?

MoP: We know that some municipalities are asking the MRC to be more involved in that (development of a regional plan and courses for staff, etc.). We will see what happens there too.

P2020: When will it be finished by?

MoP: Phase 2? There is no deadline for the moment...

Questions? Concerns? Yeah, me too. There are many things we all need to be ready for. Have a look at the websites Dominic suggested... and maybe buy a generator.


With Gatineau Park’s

With Gatineau Park’s wilderness sector making up a large part of our municipality, I do hope the planning includes forest fire response preparedness.

Many of us who live near the Park (or anywhere else that may be at risk) have given serious thought as to how we might protect our properties — and likely to be amongst very few people aware of resources that could be of real help in an emergency.

For example, several water sources and forced forest roads were used to stop the 1988 fire that moved into the Park from the old landfill site. Today, the roads are blocked by fallen trees, and the water sources either forgotten or virtually inaccessible. In an emergency, I know that trails I maintain on my property could provide an alternative access.

Other examples might include knowledge of watercourses with old and potentially weak beaver dams.

I'm sure many other residents may have similar potentially useful "on the ground" knowledge. Will the municipality's preparedness planning process be able to tap into this type of information?