A Dartmouth woman whose roommate is battling cancer is criticizing the municipality’s emergency plan.
Ellen Mouratis is concerned about a prolonged power outage at their shared apartment because she fears her roommate, Heather, would be unable to handle the loss of heat.
During this weekend’s snowstorm, she called her local councillor and city officials in an effort to find out if there is a location in their neighbourhood that has been pre-designated as a warming centre.
She was dismayed to find out there isn’t.
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“The emergency plan they have for us is to wait 24 hours without heat and then turn on a radio with batteries and listen to when they come online to find out where in your neighbourhood you could go. That’s terrible,” she said.
“There should be one in every community of school or community centre that you know in advance is your designated place to go.”
The municipality’s Emergency Management Office (EMO) advises residents to have their own plans to take care of themselves for 24 to 36 hours.
Coordinator Barry Manuel says it is impossible to have warming centres set up instantly for every outage.
“Each agency will have a plan to provide the services they need to provide in an emergency and people should do the same thing with their own family,” Manuel said.
“All the centres we would use in an emergency we already know where they are now. We don’t designate them until we have a need.”
Manuel says EMO would determine when and where to open up a warming centre based on how many people are affected, the temperature, and how long the outage was expected to last.
“Just because we lose power doesn’t mean we need to open up a warming centre right away because again these warming centres they are a resource,” he said.
“I don’t want to abuse the resource. They are run by volunteers and I do want to make sure they are there when they’re needed.”
Coun. Waye Mason, who represents Halifax South Downtown, is currently working on establishing a Joint Emergency Management team in the urban core. Similar teams were set up in rural areas after Hurricane Juan.
The community-based volunteer group will work with the municipality’s EMO and help during emergencies.
“When activated, they can kind of be there to open up the warming centres to be eyes on the ground call into EMO and let them know what the local conditions are,” Mason said.
But Mason admits the team probably wouldn’t be applicable to Ellen and Heather’s situation, unless their outage was part of a larger emergency that had mass impact.
Instead, Mason suggests if they ever did lose power and felt they needed help, to call 311 or the police non-emergency line.
The women, however, have their own plan.
“My roommate is dying of five different cancers and she would need heat. We couldn’t wait 12 hours and then wait until somebody comes up with a place for us to go to,” said Mouratis.
“After a lot of thinking about it, I just decided that if it got bad, I would take her to the hospital.”