Office of the Premier
Premier updates on storm recovery, confirms review to occur03 February 2017
FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Brian Gallant was joined by NB Power president and CEO Gaetan Thomas today to provide an update on the ice storm recovery and confirm that a review of the lessons learned will be undertaken.
“Progress on the storm recovery is progressing well. We unfortunately had a slower start than we wanted in Acadian Peninsula, but NB Power has been exceeding their targets in the region over the last several days. They expect to restore 90 percent of customers on the Acadian peninsula by tonight,” said Gallant. “For those without power, we are continuing to use every method possible, including doing door-to-door, to hear how they are doing and how we can help. Hundreds of people, including members of the Canadian Armed Forces, are informing people and going to homes to offer support.”
Gallant said that a complete review by the provincial government’s most senior civil servant will be undertaken to explore lessons learned to apply to future emergency events.
“Restoring power and ensuring safety continue to be our number one priority. New Brunswickers have shown their generosity, patience, and sense of community time and time again during this disaster, and we owe it them to learn the lessons from this event and ensure we improve on what was done,” said Gallant.
Gallant said that he will direct a complete post-action review be undertaken and a report with recommendations be issued by Judy Wagner, Clerk of the Executive Council and head of the public service. The report will be supported by internal reviews undertaken by the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) and by NB Power, as well as by stakeholder feedback. The report will be issued by July 31.
"This storm was one of the most significant in our province's history. So all of the people responsible for responding to this crisis, restoring power, and keeping people safe were put to the test. We are very proud of the work that everyone did during this very difficult time. We need, however, to see what worked well and what could be done better next storm," said Gallant. “With the effects of climate change, there will be more events like this in our country. We must be prepared and we must develop a culture of continuous improvement so that we are better each and every time.”
At 10 a.m. today, about 3,300 customers were still without power as a result of the storm, down from a peak of about 133,000 last week. The majority are in the Acadian Peninsula with only about 11 customers remaining without power in the Kent and Miramichi areas.
The remaining outtages are generally more complex and isolated making reconnection more difficult. They include properties with damage to their electrical entrances, or remote or seasonal properties which are vacant and which have been prioritized lower than occupied structures.
Gallant also announced that Service New Brunswick centres are being set-up to provide information to residents on Disaster Financial Assistance and to social development clients. These centres are located at:
- Caraquet SNB Service Centre, 127 St-Pierre Boulevard West, Caraquet.
- Tracadie SNB Service Centre, Place du Moulin, 447 du Moulin Street, Tracadie.
- Richibucto SNB Service Centre, Newstart building, 9239 Main Street, Richibucto.
“We encourage New Brunswickers who are trying to get their lives back to normal and seeking information on assistance to visit one of these satellite offices,” said Gallant. “For those without power, we are encouraging you to visit one of our warming centres to warm up, eat, and get information on Disaster Financial Assistance.”
Gallant re-iterated that, while smaller retailers may temporarily run out of certain foods, there is no larger food shortage in the areas affected by the ice storm. The warming centres and emergency shelters have adequate food and grocery stores are able to restock.
“The provincial government has also donated an additional $100,000 to local food banks bringing the total amount provided to $200,000 so that New Brunswickers can visit them to restock their fridges,” said Gallant.
Gallant confirmed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be visiting the affected areas today in order to review the damage and thank the hundreds of volunteers, NB Power crews, first responders and government workers who have been working to help New Brunswickers in need.
“We have been in contact with the federal government since day one and I was in contact with the prime minister within hours of the storm hitting our province. We have been very pleased with the support we have received from the federal government including the involvement of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Gallant. “We are thankful that the prime minister is interested in hearing first-hand of the experiences and hardships faced by New Brunswickers during this ordeal.”
The military continues to perform various tasks in the affected region and will remain in this role until they are satisfied that the scope of the challenge has been reduced to the point that local officials and volunteers can manage the situation. The provincial government has requested that the army remain until at least Sunday in order to provide relief to volunteers over the weekend.
“We are very thankful for the help provided by the Canadian Armed Forces and for the relief they will be providing to volunteers this weekend,” said Gallant. “At the same time, when the military judge it time to leave, it will be a strong indication that the recovery from this storm is nearing its end.”
Gallant addressed forecasts which indicate another weather system may be moving into New Brunswick next week.
“We are monitoring this system very closely and assessing how it will impact New Brunswick and especially the areas that were impacted by the last ice storm,” said Gallant. “This system is currently five days out and subject to change, but we will be ready to raise awareness about stocking their homes with at least a 72-hour supply of water and food as well as a significant awareness campaign about the dangers of carbon monoxide if the storm comes to our province.”
Carbon monoxide poisoning continues to be a concern in the affected regions with the number of suspected illness due to carbon monoxide currently at 45. New Brunswickers are reminded to never run generators or cook with an open flame inside a home or a garage as these activities create carbon monoxide (CO) which can be extremely dangerous.
Private wells that have been without power should be flushed before drinking by turning on each faucet in the house, one at a time, and running the water for several minutes.
If food-grade anti-freeze was used to prevent pipes from freezing, be sure to flush according to the directions on the label of the product used. Regular anti-freeze should never be used in a drinking water system. If it has been used, do not drink water from the well until it has been shock chlorinated and flushed.
Ice storm review
Following other recent extreme weather events, internal reviews undertaken by EMO and NB Power have resulted in some improvements. However, the provincial government has directed that the seriousness and long duration of this event requires a more thorough review, with the independent oversight of Judy Wagner, Clerk of the Executive Council and head of the public service. Some of the improvements made as a result of previous reviews include:
- Hiring six Regional Emergency Management Coordinators. They assist municipal governments and regional commissions in making and executing emergency plans.
- Establishing a deputy ministers committee to oversee security and emergency management.
- Providing funding to Ground Search and Rescue and closer collaboration with EMO.
- Investments in technology to improve communication between first responders and EMO.
- National Public Alerting System.
- Technology to more efficiently identify “vegetation hot spots” and enable more targeted vegetation management.
- Increased budget for vegetation management.
- Improving customer information on estimated times of power restoration through improvements to our outage management system and deploying outage mapping functionality.
- Updating and regularly exercising the corporate emergency preparedness plan.
- Improving emergency response through process improvements involving technology and resource management.
- Providing better tools including website enhancements, face-to-face communications with municipalities, social and other media, to help customers understand how and why priorities are set in restoring power and increase broad communications on storm preparedness to customers.
NB Power crews continue to make progress restoring power to customers affected by last week's ice storm, meeting and exceeding restoration targets set earlier this week in the Acadian Peninsula, Miramichi and Kent County.
At 10 a.m., about 3,300 customers were still without power as a result of the storm, down from a peak of about 133,000 last week.
Most customers remaining without power are in the Acadian Peninsula, where the ice storm hit later and harder than other parts of the province.
NB Power expects to restore 90 per cent of customers in the Acadian Peninsula by this evening and the vast majority of customers by the end of the weekend. There will be exceptions to this including those with very complex issues including damage to their electrical entrances, or very remote or seasonal properties.
This progress will depend on weather and working conditions and specific challenges that may be experienced by crews.
NB Power currently has 314 crews on the ground in affected areas.
Residents with damage to their electrical mast or other equipment should call NB Power at 1-800-663-6272 for a disconnect before a certified electrician can perform work.
NB Power has been made aware of broken poles being salvaged for use by residents. Residents are advised to not burn these poles as firewood under any circumstance as they are chemically treated and will release harmful fumes.
Also, residents are advised to stay clear of downed lines, trees and equipment for safety reasons. Please also drive slowly in affected areas and watch for crews working to restore power near the roads.
Disaster Financial Assistance
People who have been impacted by this event are encouraged to inquire about Disaster Financial Assistance. Residents who have suffered damages should register immediately so that health and safety inspections can take place.
Applications are available online and have been distributed to warming centres/shelters. Residents can also call 1-888-298-8555 for more information or to apply.
Residents are encouraged to apply for Disaster Financial Assistance despite the deductible. Applications will be evaluated on a case by case basis and the deductible will be waived for people who demonstrate financial challenges.
Municipalities are also covered under this program for response and recovery costs. Municipal governments are tracking their costs now, and a package will be sent out to each municipality explaining the guidelines.
Shelters and warming centres
There remain more than 34 shelters and warming centres open in affected regions. These centres will remain open as long as there is a need. Residents are strongly encouraged to visit these centres. These centres are open to everyone, including to people from other communities.
Anyone with questions about these centres may call the Red Cross at 1-800-222-9597, or EMO at 1-800-561-4034.
How to help
The Red Cross has launched a donation appeal to help the people who are most vulnerable and in need. Donations may be made online, or by calling the Red Cross at 1-800-418-1111. Residents can also support the disaster fund by making a donation through NB Liquor’s at-cash campaign at any of its 44 corporate stores.
Important public reminders
Never run generators or cook with an open flame inside a home or a garage as these activities create carbon monoxide (CO) which can be extremely dangerous. It is also important that generators are kept away from a residence so gases cannot enter a home. If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds or if you suspect it in your home, immediately go outside into fresh air. If you have headaches and have the symptoms of the flu, leave your home immediately.
Residents should not approach downed power lines, or trees that are in contact with power lines.
Residents are encouraged to check on their neighbours, particularly the elderly, to see if they require assistance.
Department of Social Development clients who have been impacted by this disaster should contact their case workers. Provisions are in place to allow access to emergency funds for necessities.
Food safety: when in doubt, throw it out. Residents who have been without power for a period of time are reminded to carefully inspect all food items and to avoid eating any food that they believe may not be safe. More information is available online.
New Brunswickers with any medical concerns who are affected by power outages are encouraged to call Tele-Care 811. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
If your power is out, turn down heat sources and unplug major appliances in advance of power restoration to avoid a surge in demand that has the potential to cause more outages.