Government of New Brunswick

From January 24-26, an ice storm hit central and eastern New Brunswick, from Miscou Island to Sackville. The intense low-pressure system resulted in severe impacts that included widespread power outages that lasted for a number of days, with nearly 300,000 NB Power customers losing power.

Public meetings were held as part of a post-action review report of the ice storm. Judy Wagner, Clerk of the Executive Council and head of the public service, led the review. Her report, with recommendations, is supported by internal reviews undertaken by New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, NB Power and officials from the Department of Health, as well as stakeholder feedback.

Recommendation 1
The Government of New Brunswick, in cooperation with appropriate partners, must continue its efforts as identified in Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Economy: New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan (2017) as it relates to mitigation and adaption to risks associated with extreme weather events.

Recommendation 2 NBEMO should make its after-action reports public on a proactive basis, and report annually on the actions taken in response to the after-action report recommendations.

Recommendation 3 The Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee must reconvene, meet on a quarterly basis at minimum, and take a more active role in emergency services not only during an event, but also in relation to planning and post-event follow-up.

Recommendation 4 The recommendations included in the Province of New Brunswick Preparedness, Response and Recovery – Winter 2017 Ice Storm report prepared on behalf of NBEMO will be read into this review, monitored and reported on to the Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee.

Recommendation 5 NBEMO and the Department of Environment and Local Government should collaborate on a proposal to clearly articulate the role of Regional Services Commissions in the coordination of emergency planning and service delivery.

Recommendation 6 Municipalities of all sizes must make their responsibilities associated with emergency planning a higher priority to ensure that emergency plans are current and that staff responsible for the implementation of plans are emergency-ready.

Recommendation 7 NBEMO should, in discussion with the municipal associations, take steps to clarify, either through legislative change or guiding material, the relative roles and responsibilities of NBEMO and the municipalities as it relates to the “implementation” of emergency plans during an emergency.

Recommendation 8 NBEMO and the Department of Environment and Local Government should collaborate on a proposal to address the respective roles and responsibilities of the Department of Environment and Local Government, NBEMO, the regional service commissions and the LSD advisory committees as it relates to the provision of emergency services.

Recommendation 9 The Department of Environment and Local Government should continue its efforts to encourage the formation of local government organization across the province, and should include, in these efforts, information regarding the benefits of such organization as it relates to emergency planning and service delivery.

Recommendation 10 The Department of Justice and Public Safety should prepare a proposal to government outlining the implications of making the review, modification and approval of provincial, regional and municipal emergency measures plans a mandatory responsibility of NBEMO.To ensure that plans are kept updated, this approval process should occur on a regular basis per best practises.

Recommendation 11 Consideration should be given to using the Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee as a body to reinforce NBEMO’s efforts to hold municipalities, departments of government and external stakeholders to account with respect to their legislated, delegated and/or contracted requirements in relation to emergency measures planning and implementation.

Recommendation 12 NBEMO should revisit its training regime with a view to increasing its accessibility to local and regional officials.NBEMO and the Department of Environment and Local Government should take steps to ensure that orientation for new municipal mayors and councillors includes an emergency measures component.

Recommendation 13 NBEMO should action recommendation #4 from its after-action review to increase the number of Regional Emergency Management Coordinators (REMC) as soon as possible, not only to ensure operational capacity for future emergencies, but also to assist with more rigorous and standardized emergency planning.

Recommendation 14 The Government of New Brunswick should increase the funding for emergency services to cover costs associated primarily with adding emergency resources at the regional level and the provision of better training for local and regional responders.Consideration should be given to increasing the NB 911 fee on telephone bills to supplement the NB 911 Service Fund.

Recommendation 15 As the federal government makes investments in infrastructure, both on and off reserve, consideration should be given to how these investments can be leveraged to improve emergency resiliency.

Recommendation 16 It is recommended that GNB engage in a dialogue with First Nations communities and INAC to, at minimum, formalize communications in emergencies, and to discuss the feasibility of entering into a formal agreement for the integration of emergency services similar to the INAC agreement with PEI.

Recommendation 17 It is recommended that discussions take place to ensure that there will be federal or First Nations representation at the Provincial and/or Regional Emergency Operations Centres to ensure appropriate coordination of emergency services with and for First Nations communities .

Recommendation 18 Citizens must take greater responsibility for the preparedness of themselves and their families, and not assume that institutional services (i.e., government or other relief organization) will be in place as quickly as desired to maintain their safety and comfort.

Recommendation 19 Governments and relief organizations should analyze the disconnect between, on one hand, the consistent communications on the 72-hour emergency preparedness message and, on the other hand, the inaction of citizens to heed this advice.This is recommended with a view to increasing the percentage of New Brunswickers who take concrete action to better equip themselves from a preparedness standpoint.

Recommendation 20 Efforts to communicate messages about 72-hour preparedness must continue, and creative steps need to be taken to motivate people to action.Ideas that could be considered include: permanent reminders or lists (e.g., magnets, stickers) that can be displayed in the home, inclusion of reminders in storm forecasts and media reports, enhanced use of social media, inclusion of the material at community events, or programming for the sponsorship of emergency kits or part of kits.

Recommendation 21 Societal behaviour changes, particularly those associated with social responsibility, are frequently most successful if we are able to influence our youth.More focus should be put on messages targeting the youth population, such as those that can accompany emergency preparation training and curriculum in school or in communities with resources such as those found on the Province of Quebec’s S.O.S.Sécuro website designed.

Recommendation 22 NBEMO and associated responder organizations should have contingency plans to address behaviours resulting from fear of victimization that may contribute to the complexity of keeping the general population safe and comfortable.

Recommendation 23 Citizens’ expectations should not be raised with respect to governments’ and responder organizations’ abilities to ensure safety and security on a highly individualized basis.

Recommendation 24 The actions identified by NB Power in the table included in this report will be read into this review, monitored and reported on to the Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee.

Recommendation 25 In its messaging to the public about the anticipated length of power outages, NB Power should remain cognizant of the fact that NB EMO, first responders and are using the estimates to make decisions about what actions they will take in response to the outage.The provision of estimates that set out worst-case scenarios should be considered when the estimates are being relied on to make decisions about both response requirements and personal safety.

Recommendation 26 To maintain public confidence with respect to the continuity and reliability of electrical power, NB Power should communicate:

a) the work it is doing to build greater resiliency into the grid as climate change impacts our weather; and,

b) the discussions taking place at the national level with respect to the standards required to ensure that power infrastructure can withstand increasingly frequent and damaging weather incidents, especially in vulnerable areas.

Recommendation 27 Responder organizations and regional/local governments should, in their emergency plans, consider the strategic acquisition and location of generators to optimize spending while ensuring critical and social services can be maintained during emergencies.

Recommendation 28 NBEMO and NB Power should work with regional and local planners to consider the feasibility of developing and including, as part of their emergency planning processes, protocols governing generator access, distribution and sharing during extended power outages.

Recommendation 29 Governments at the federal, provincial and local levels should consider how funding could be made available over the coming years to assist in the acquisition of emergency generators, particularly as it relates to climate change adaption and local government infrastructure.

Recommendation 30 NBEMO and the Department of Health should collaborate on the production and distribution of emergency-based messaging that is both simple to understand and in a form that will encourage the retention of the material in the home for reference as required.This information should include messaging associated with the safe use of fuel-based appliances during power outages.

Recommendation 31 The Government of New Brunswick should, in collaboration with the private and non-profit sectors, identify ways to encourage the purchase and installation of carbon monoxide detectors through education and, where affordability is an issue, through rebate, donation or other form of cost-reduction.

Recommendation 32 The Government of New Brunswick should study the impact and implications of making the installation of carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in existing buildings in a manner similar to that which is required for new construction under the National Building Code 2010.

Recommendation 33 The Department of Social Development, the Red Cross and NBEMO (as required) should collaborate with municipal associations, on behalf of municipalities, to:

a) clarify their respective roles and responsibilities associated with the provision of emergency social services;

b) codify, either in law or policy, the need for and extent of participation between the Department of Social Development and Red Cross in municipal and regional planning effort; and,

c) ensure that Red Cross best practises are incorporated into the practises of emergency volunteer efforts organized at the community level without the support of the Red Cross.

Recommendation 34 The Department of Social Development should take steps to revise the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Red Cross to ensure compliance with section 30 of the Official Languages Act when dealing directly with the public on behalf of the Government of New Brunswick.

Recommendation 35 The identification, equipping and communication of locations that will serve as warming/reception centres and/or shelters should be undertaken as a key component of local and regional emergency plans.

Recommendation 36 Regional emergency plans should include consideration of how citizens who lack transportation or are trapped due to impassable roads might be transported from distant locations to warming/reception centres or shelters.

Recommendation 37 The selection and equipping of locations for warming/reception centres and shelters should be undertaken strategically at the regional level to ensure that resources—especially, volunteers, equipment, and responder support—can be optimized both before and during emergencies.

Recommendation 38 When communicating the locations of warming/reception centres and shelters, information should include details such as hours of operation, services to be offered, and even advice about securing one’s home if moving to a shelter.

Recommendation 39 Municipalities and regions should consider the feasibility of creating and maintaining a self-reported register of vulnerable persons who may want to be on record as possibly requiring assistance in times of emergency.

Recommendation 40 The Department of Social Development should take steps to get permission from clients on a proactive basis to share their personal information with responders during emergencies for the purposes of assisting in providing emergency aid.

Recommendation 41 The Department of Social Development should revisit the requirements for emergency preparedness for special care homes and prepare a proposal for the consideration of government to phase-in requirements for back-up power generation or alternate arrangements in the event of extended power outages.

Recommendation 42 NBEMO should explore and employ best practices to make best use of spontaneous volunteers alongside the planned, trained volunteers in emergency response efforts.Consideration should be given to the types of tasks that are best suited to spontaneous volunteers and what constraints or limitations need to be put in place to optimize the safety of the volunteers and those they are serving.

Recommendation 43 As part of the regional and municipal emergency planning and preparedness efforts, consideration should be given to establishing databases of volunteers, trained and security vetted as appropriate, who can be called upon in the event of emergency.These plans should ensure that LSD residents are among the volunteers to broaden the pool and to promote fairness.

Recommendation 44 The Government of New Brunswick should explore, with the Canadian Red Cross, the development and maintenance of a partnership to enhance, through awareness and training, the emergency volunteer capabilities of public servants across the province.

Recommendation 45 NBEMO and the Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee should work together to bring a higher level of awareness to senior civil servants, politicians and political staff as it relates to the mechanics of large-scale emergency management and how each can best contribute to a successful emergency effort.

Recommendation 46 During emergencies, a liaison position should be established to serve as conduit between government representatives and NBEMO to follow up on the citizen concerns that are directed to government officials and politicians who are not in the NBEMO direct chain of command.

Recommendation 47 Members of the general public need to better understand the implications of a declared state of emergency to avoid misunderstandings about its benefits and to be clear of the scope of authority held by the government and its agents should a state of emergency ever be required.

Recommendation 48 NBEMO and Service New Brunswick should explore how the Disaster Financial Assistance administrative processes can be streamlined to enable the initiation of a program and response to citizens in need as quickly as possible.

Recommendation 49 When it is anticipated that a DFA program is likely to be established, residents should be advised as early in the event as possible what types of records are likely to be required for the submission of a claim.

Recommendation 50 The Deputy Minister Security and Emergency Management Committee should pursue, as a priority, the establishment of a recognizable and reliable emergency radio broadcast program for use as a primary source of information dissemination during emergencies.

Recommendation 51 NBEMO should continue to promote the use of Sentinel or other such warning systems, in the emergency planning phases, and partner with municipalities which will choose to use such systems to encourage self-registry by citizens.