Report from fire chief on Sept. 25 tornado response displeases councillor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone returned to town council with a report on the response to the Sept. 25 tornadoes but it did not satisfy the council member that requested it.

“I’m not happy with the report at all,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, who recalled her family being “hunkered in the basement” that night as WJBK-TV Channel 2 out of Detroit was broadcasting that Amherstburg was in the path of the storm.

“The Town of Amherstburg did not send out any warnings,” said Pouget.

Pouget maintained use of the emergency sirens would have helped and that council members heard from a number of residents unhappy that there was no notification. She said some people knew of the storm only through family members contacting them, something she found “disturbing.”

“This could have been a very, very dangerous storm,” said Pouget. “I just feel it could have been a very significant disaster.”

Councillor Joan Courtney said she saw the same U.S. broadcasts, which called for local residents to take cover.

Montone said they were challenged by the fact that no national or provincial authority warned of an immediate emergency or hazard for Amherstburg.

“Those are the authorities we are subordinate to,” said Montone.

The sirens reach about 260 homes in the “primary zone,” with that zone being the first to know about a nuclear incident. He added they do not reach further out into the community.

“I can’t provide information I don’t have,” said Montone.

The brick welcome sign was also destroyed during the Sept. 25 storm that hit Amherstburg.

The Amherstburg Fire Department did not receive any emergency calls for service Sept. 25, he stated.

In his report, Montone noted that “like many members of the public and media,” the National Alert Ready Message and provincial warning advised of the tornado warning for southwestern Ontario.

“No alert or credible information regarding an imminent event directly to the Town of Amherstburg was ever received,” Montone’s report stated. “The emergency siren system within the Nuclear Primary zone, which was designed specifically for the threat of nuclear exposure, does not provide the majority (primary zone contains approximately 260 households of a total of 8,951 households within the municipality) of the Amherstburg public with specific information about what type of emergency exists nor emergency instructions or appropriate actions to take during a weather event.”

Montone noted that “it is very important that the public be provided with accurate information and guidance” and that sources that are “partly accurate” could mean incorrect or non-effective guidance could be provided to the public “which could result in needless worry and panic, accidents and additional injury caused by inappropriate guidance.

The “probable tornado” that was determined to have hit as part of that evening’s weather event was the result of local information provided by the municipality, he said, as opposed to any scientific visit or investigation.

“This event was not a significant emergency requiring the Emergency Operation Centre to be opened,” Montone’s report stated. “There was not mass damage, no injury or worse, and no emergency calls for help were received. This event did not require the mayor to consider declaring a State of Emergency; this event did not require the Emergency Control Group or our Municipal ERP to be activated. There was extremely little damage to property.”

Messages were also sent via smart phone to those on the LTE network, he added.

Councillor Rick Fryer noted minor sports groups such as minor soccer have long asked for better notification at such places as the Libro Centre. He believed the U.S. has better radar systems.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned whether American weather sources could be used by the town given the close proximity to that country.

“Can we not access the National Weather Service for a fee?” asked Meloche.

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