Municipal emergency coordinators from across the region gathered in Altona last week for a 1-day training session on how to effectively run an emergency operations centre (EOC).
The day began with theory in the morning followed by a simulation in the afternoon, facilitated by Shelley Napier, Executive Director for the Manitoba Association of Municipal Emergency Coordinators (MAMEC).

"Every community in Manitoba, under legislation, has to have an emergency operations centre, they have to have an emergency program," she explained. "Which requires them to have a plan, train and exercise. Today we're teaching a really important component of that. So, the students in the class are going to leave with knowledge they can take back to make sure their residents are kept safer, their councils are more informed and involved, and they're meeting a standard and requirement as well."

Not only were municipal emergency coordinators participating in the training, but so were members of community public works teams, cheif administrative officers, fire fighters and police officers. Napier says each of these are important components to effecitvely working through a local emergency situation.

"It's like a puzzle and every piece tells a story. And so, yes, it's important that every aspect within a community response team is trained appropriately, and they make up part of that emergency response team."

Perry Batchelor is the Municipal Emergency Coordinator for the Town of Altona. He said it's always good to stay current and exercise.

"It keeps you sharp," he noted. "There's always new stuff that comes up and some new ideas and best practices, so it's great networking."

Most recently, Altona's EOC was activated for 12 days last spring during the unexpected high water event brought on by late-season snowfall and heavy rains. While we often think of an EOC being used predominantly in a flood situation like that, Batchelor says it could operate during any degree of emergency. For example, he cited an apartment complex fire in the middle of a freezing cold winter. 

"We need to activate a warming centre. We need to activate a transportation for people to move them and get them warm and get a hot drink into them, things like that," he explained. "It's just a place to coordinate all of those things that need to happen - housing, feeding, looking after pets, the whole nine yards. It's all about coordinating and supporting the department that is currently dealing with the emergency."

In May 2020, a local apartment complex burned down in the middle of the night. Batchelor noted, discussions took place on whether to activate the EOC at the time, however, because the fire department wasn't overwhelmed and an evacuation centre wasn't required, the call wasn't made. He said it would have been a totally different scenario had the fire happened in the middle of the winter.