From left to right

Kitimat gets new emergency operations centre

A new EOC has opened in Kitimat to prepare and react to potential disasters.

A central, physical emergency operations centre (EOC) is officially open in Kitimat.

Or at least, it’s on standby in the event of a problem that requires emergency planning.

The EOC is located in the former council chambers, upstairs in the Public Safety Building, where, over the winter, the emergency cold weather response shelter would run.

Kitimat’s volunteer emergency preparedness coordinator Bob McLeod was quite pleased to see the location become available for emergency management.

“Up until now we’ve shared the training room at the fire hall as an emergency operations centre and the opportunity came up to have a fixed place to work out of and it just made sense to try and develop it because with the industry coming in, it’s much better to have a location where we can work in comfort and invite industry to join us in the event that anything ever happens,” he said.

In the past, such as during the October 2012 earthquake, an emergency operations centre would simply be run out of a series of containers, perhaps set up in the fire chief’s office.

Those boxes still exist, but only to provide flexibility.

“We could pick those boxes up and go pretty much anywhere we could find room,” he said. “There is flexibility. Our secondary EOC would be in the municipal office and if that is damaged too well then we would have to find someplace else.”

Kitimat’s emergency response planners meet monthly with industrial leaders to coordinate plans and capabilities. McLeod said around 20 people a month come out to those meetings.

“The industries are required to have their own emergency plans but if something did happen the major coordination would probably take place here and they would be responding to their issues and we would be responding and assisting where we can.”

He said most small communities are not lucky enough to have a dedicated EOC office and that Kitimat is “very, very” fortunate to have one now.

The EOC opened to a small open house at the fire hall on May 13.

Meanwhile it was also recently Emergency Preparedness Week, and McLeod took the chance to point out that people need to be prepared for emergencies in their own homes.

“We cannot look after everybody, people have to be prepared to look after themselves,” he said.

People should have at minimum 72 hours worth of supplies to be self-sufficient, but ideally should be stocked to be self-sufficient for a week.

That will give emergency responders time to become organized and start assisting the public, he said.