Bruce Montone

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.

Report requested on response to Sept. 25 tornado activity

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A town councillor is requesting a report on the town’s response to the Sept. 25 storms that swept through Amherstburg.

One confirmed tornado and one “probable” tornado came through town that night and Councillor Diane Pouget wants a “complete report” on the storm including information on whether the town’s emergency plan was enacted and why the sirens didn’t go off.

Fire chief Bruce Montone said the fire department receives the same information everyone else does and that the information the department received was that there was a warning for southwestern Ontario.

“That’s a pretty big area,” he said.

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

The sirens, he said, are not the most appropriate way to notify the public in those situations as they are only in the “primary zone” for a nuclear incident and have no ability to transmit messages. If there was notification of an immediate hazard, the emergency notification system would have been activated but Montone said they received no further information that what national and provincial systems were disseminating.

Pouget believed the town was “very, very lucky” that more damage wasn’t sustained, and that sirens can let people know to go inside.

“It could have been very devastating,” she said of the storm. “We want to make sure the residents are safe.”

Councillor Rick Fryer cited sirens in Monroe, Michigan are loud enough so that residents inside the homes can hear them and know there is an emergency.

Montone said town council had the foresight to purchase the mass notification system and that anyone with a cell phone or smartphone on the LTE system received an emergency alert. He added that current technology doesn’t allow for provincial notifications to be broadcast on other networks.

A report will be brought back to town council at a future meeting.

Town takes possession of new fire truck

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Fire Department has received one new fire truck and is awaiting another.

At the start of Monday night’s council meeting, elected officials, administration and members of the public went next door to fire station #1 for the official acceptance of the new truck, with Bob Lock from Fort Garry Fire Trucks on hand to present the keys to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo accepts the keys from Bob Lock of Fort Garry Fire Trucks.

Fire chief Bruce Montone thanked town council for its support of the department, including authorizing the purchase of the new trucks. Council agreed last December to buy the two new vehicles at a cost of $807,000, with about $380,000 of that being the new pumper/tanker that arrived Monday morning.

“It replaces the tanker at station two,” said Montone. The tanker at station two doesn’t have pumping capabilities and was the oldest in the Amherstburg Fire Department’s fleet at 22-years-old.

The new vehicle carries 1,700 gallons of water and carry as many as five firefighters in the cab.

“It’s very, very efficient,” said Montone. “Basically, you get two vehicles in one.”

Montone touted it is a Canadian-made truck, as Fort Garry Fire Trucks is based out of Winnipeg.

The usual lifespan for a truck is 20 years, the chief added. A rescue pumper is due to arrive in about three to four weeks, he stated.

own council was given a look at the newest fire truck Monday night, with the truck to be based out of Station 2 starting this week. (From left): Fire chief Bruce Montone, CAO John Miceli, Councillor Leo Meloche, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Councillor Rick Fryer, Councillor Diane Pouget and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale stand with the new pumper/tanker truck.

As the Amherstburg Fire Department is looking at replacing its fleet over time, it is expected more vehicle requests will be made as part of the 2019 budget process.

The new truck has black incorporated in its colour, something that is a trend in firefighting. Montone said the new truck should be in service this week as there is some training that has to be done and a new radio has to be installed.

Rotary Club of Amherstburg earns 2018 Fire Safety Award

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A project undertaken by the Rotary Club of Amherstburg, in partnership with the Amherstburg Fire Department and Amherstburg Community Services, has resulted in an award for Rotary.

The Rotary Club has received a 2018 Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council Fire Safety Award. Rotarians Laura George and Carl Gibb were in Toronto recently to pick up the award.

“It was a total surprise,” said George, who was president in 2017 when the project was initiated. “(Amherstburg Fire) Chief (Bruce) Montone came up to us at a council meeting and said he had nominated us.”

The project was to have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms placed in the homes of those in need, such as seniors or low income households.

“Out of 11 recipients, two were Rotary Clubs which says a lot for what Rotary does in their communities,” said George.

George said over 600 carbon monoxide alarms were purchased. The Rotary Club, with funds generated by the Ribfest, contributed $2,500 and obtained a matching grant of $2,500 through Rotary International. The town contributed another $2,500, George added.

“It was nice to get to work with Chief Montone. It was one of his first projects when he came to Amherstburg.”

The Rotary Club of Amherstburg received a a 2018 Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council Fire Safety Award in Toronto recently. From left: Amherstburg deputy fire chief Paul Acton, chair of the awards committee Dan Langlois, Rotarians Carl Gibb and Laura George, Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone and Fire Marshal of Ontario Ross Nichols. (Special to the RTT)

George and Gibb thanked ACS for their assistance as well, as ACS helped identify homes that the CO alarms went into.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have been able to keep the project going,” said George.

The idea was generated thanks to a similar project done by the Rotary Club of Amherstburg, as several years ago, the local club embarked on a smoke detector project.

“If not for all of the volunteers and the hours they put in at Ribfest, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did,” George added, noting “it’s nice to keep the money locally.”

Montone called working with the Rotary Club and ACS “a significant partnership.”

“It was beginning to unfold when I arrived in Amherstburg,” said Montone.

The partnership had a positive impact on those who are most vulnerable and noted he was able to reach out to First Alert so that the donated funds could be used to purchase the CO alarms at cost rather than at retail value.

“That has a significant impact on the number of people you are protecting,” said Montone.

Noting there were 600 CO alarms purchased, the fire chief noted that translates into roughly 3,000 people who are protected.

“That is worthy of being recognized,” said Montone. “It was awesome (the Rotary Club of Amherstburg) was selected.

Distribution of KI pills “steady,” town may look to other methods to distribute the rest

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The first two days of the potassium iodide (KI) pills distribution went well but similar events may be needed to distribute the rest.

Over 150 households picked up their KI pills, with those households being in the “primary zone,” which is defined as being within a 16.1-kilometre radius of the Fermi II nuclear power plant. In case of a nuclear incident, residents in the primary zone would be instructed to take the pills, as those pills would help fend of the possibility of thyroid cancer for people exposed to radiation.

“It’s been going steady,” said fire chief Bruce Montone, who is also the community emergency management co-ordinator (CEMC).

The KI pills were distributed in partnership with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) May 7-8 at the Libro Centre. As part of the package people in the primary zone received, they got a box with 20 KI pills, with the three-day supply of pills being good through 2026.

There are 400 or so households in the primary zone, Montone said, so another method of getting the pills to the remaining residents will be devised. That could include door-to-door delivery or another session like what occurred May 7-8 where people can go to a location like the Libro Centre and pick them up. Montone indicated there could be a combination of methods.

“We got some people in and out quickly,” he said. “Other people had lots of questions.”

Most questions were able to be answered easily, Montone added. He emphasized that pills are only to be taken if instruction is given to take them. People were also given a booklet with information about the pills and what to do to plan for an emergency.

Jean Meloche (left) obtains her KI pills from Windsor-Essex County Health Unit officials Lori Adams and Karen Lukic.

Montone said people in Amherstburg should always have an emergency kit on hand just in case any type of emergency should occur. That includes two litres of water per person, prescription drugs, non-perishable food items, cash, a battery-operated radio and personal documentation.

Should the emergency sirens go off, people are asked to go inside and listen for instruction.

“Whatever we tell you to do, that’s what we need you to do,” he said.

Once the primary zone is taken care of with KI pills, people in the secondary zone will be planned for as locations would have to be secured in the 80-kilometre radius for people to attend to get the pills.

The first phase of the plan is about $370,000 and that is funded through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Montone also addressed the emergency notifications – or in many cases, lack thereof – to people’s cell phones last week. He acknowledged it didn’t work out well in parts of Ontario like this region and parts of Quebec and he said that reinforces his belief there is a need for two methods of notification.

Amherstburg has the “Amherstburg Alert” system and Montone believes it was a “wise decision” to implement that as that is a local solution, that would coincide with any provincial or national notification method.

“It just illustrates the importance of local capabilities,” he said.

Those wishing to sign up for “Amherstburg Alert” can do so at www.amherstburg.ca/alert or call the Amherstburg Fire Department for information at 519-736-6500.