Update February 3, 2017 – Coroner’s inquest called into fatal boating accident / 911 response. You can see a recent letter from FOCA here, and some history / more detail, below (see: December 2014 posting).
The safety and well-being of rural waterfront residents is of significant importance to FOCA and our member associations, and to all of us who spend time in the out of doors – often many miles from local services. Given the independent and self-sufficient nature of rural living, it is vital that we are prepared in the event of an emergency. (see “Background” and FOCA’s enquiries about rural safety, below)
Jan.2016 – an update about emergency response in cottage country: According to the OPP (1-888-310-1122), anywhere in the Province of Ontario you can dial 911 for any EMERGENCY situation, whenever police, fire or ambulance assistance is required immediately. OPP is the default responder to 911 calls (in areas where OPP provides policing) and will attend the emergency, or will ensure the appropriate emergency agency (e.g. ambulance or fire) attends. Note that unless you are calling on a landline, a caller will need to be able to provide not only the nature of their emergency, but also their location. Calls made via cell phone or VOIP will not automatically provide OPP with your location. GPS coordinates are helpful, and if possible, practical directions to your location is important especially if your location is remote or hard to find.
In the event of an emergency, it is critical to be able to quickly and accurately relay the required information to emergency service providers. FOCA recommends that each waterfront home have a handy and visible list of emergency phone numbers posted somewhere prominent, near a telephone if possible. Having accurate information at hand will aid in directing first responders to your location – critical information that may save a life, and that (in a panic) may be hard to translate or describe – especially if a guest or others less familiar with your location are making the call.
Create your own call list, or adapt this handy example from FOCA to add all the relevant information for your location.
Help our first responders to get to you when you need them most.
Emergency response – FOCA asked
December 2014 – An unfortunate and fatal boating incident on Lake Wanipitei (Wahnapitae) near Sudbury was a tragic example of the limitations of providing emergency services outside of southern / municipal Ontario.
On behalf of FOCA’s members, the following letter was written in December 2014 to the local MPP France Gelinas (Nickel Belt), and copied to Minister of Health Eric Hoskins, and to Ontario Fire Marshal & Chief, Emergency Management, Ted Wieclawek:
Dear MPP Gelinas, (and Messrs. Hoskins, and Wieclawek by cc),
Our organization represents thousands of rural and northern property owners, including many in your riding, and we are gravely concerned about their ability to reasonably access emergency services, should they need them. The fatally flawed dispatch of critical services to a June 2013 boating accident on Lake Wanapitei has heightened our concerns and prompted this request.
We would appreciate any information you can provide in relation to the follow up to this case, including information from the coroner’s office, from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, EMO/OFM or others.
On behalf of our members, we would like some assurance that the health and well-being of northern and rural Ontario residents is a priority of the Provincial government, and that effective communications and coordination, along with adequate resources, are in place to respond to emergency situations faced by our citizens.
We would like to be able to accurately disseminate information to our members about how (or if) they can access emergency services should they need them, and also to accurately describe what their expectations should be regarding access to government-led emergency response in the future.
Terry Rees, Executive Director
Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA)
On February 24, 2015, FOCA received a response from Ms. Gelinas (but as yet nothing from the Ministry of Health, nor Emergency Management Ontario) :
Unfortunately the government has declined to hold an inquiry into the event on Lake Wanapitei and our researchers have found there are no generic expected response times for cottagers. Any response time will depend upon location and the specific circumstances of each individual cottage and the municipality in which they reside. If there is no cell or land line available their choices are limited, a satellite phone is probably their best bet. If there is cell service in the area of the cottage in question a GPS device that could give the user location coordinates could be recommended as they could share their coordinates when reporting the issue.
Sorry we don’t have anything more substantial for you and your members Mr. Rees.
Legislative Assistant / Adjoint législatif
La députée de Nickel Belt MPP
More advice on municipal and personal emergency preparedness
(credits: Allan Bonner Communications Management Inc.)
July 2015 – Allan Bonner recently shared his perspective on the state of municipal emergency response plans (Excerpt from: CBC Mainstreet New Brunswick ).
…When I searched for the Cape Breton emergency plan I found a very comprehensive and long plan, that happens to be very old and, I think, a bit off the mark. What I did find – which is good – is a 72 hour plan and some personal preparedness information on Cape Breton’s website, and that’s great. To me that’s what should be front and center; no citizen cares about the legal authority by which municipalities manage the plan, who reports to whom, jargon, acronyms etc. They want to know what should I do in the event of an emergency….
September 2015 – Are cities prepared for emergencies? Do our cities have the answers? More from Allan Bonner about Municipal Emergency Plans (from CHCH Face off)
Note: Allan Bonner is an renowned leadership coach and communications consultant with considerable experience in Risk, Disaster and Crisis Management. In addition to his experience with corporate and government leaders worldwide, he is also the author of 11 books on business. Learn more: http://allanbonner.com/about-allan_bonner/