NEGUAC (GNB) – A comprehensive review of the response to the January 2017 ice storm released today contains recommendations to strengthen future responses to natural disasters and emergencies.

The review, authored by Judy Wagner, Clerk of the Executive Council and head of the public service, contains 51 recommendations, supported by separate reviews undertaken by NB Power and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) of the Department of Justice and Public Safety, which were also released today.

“The January storm was one of the most significant weather events in our province’s history and its impacts were catastrophic,” said Wagner. “It was clear through the review that there was no lack of dedication or desire to help among those who participated in the response. Everyone involved did the best they could with the resources and information available to them. This review seeks to ensure we will do even better next time.”

Among the recommendations contained in the report:

  • The provincial government 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.
  • EMO should action recommendation #4 from its after-action review to increase the number of Regional Emergency Management Co-ordinators as soon as possible, not only to ensure operational capacity for future emergencies, but also to assist with more rigorous and standardized emergency planning.
  • The provincial government should, in collaboration with private and non-profit sectors, identify ways to encourage the purchase and installation of carbon monoxide detectors through education and, when affordability is an issue, through rebate, donation or other form of cost-reduction.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Public Safety Minister Denis Landry accepted the report on behalf of the provincial government, thanking public servants, NB Power and EMO, and local responders for their hard work during the response to the storm.

“The goal of this report is to improve our collective level of preparedness for future severe weather events and emergency situations,” Landry said. “It is important to learn from this experience and find ways to improve our processes and how we work together.”

A committee of deputy ministers will work with internal and external partners to develop an action plan to implement recommendations in the report, Landry said.

The January 2017 ice storm caused widespread power outages, with more than 133,000 NB Power customers, almost 300,000 people, affected across the province at its peak. Some residents were left without power for more than 11 days. Two New Brunswickers lost their lives and 49 others were hospitalized as a result of what is understood to have been carbon monoxide poisoning.

Staff with EMO, NB Power, the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Armed Forces, emergency responders, local government officials, provincial officials and public servants, the news media and volunteers from across the province all participated in the response.

Premier Brian Gallant ordered the comprehensive review be undertaken after the storm recovery operations were completed. A series of public meetings were held in April, which provided residents with the opportunity to offer suggestions and ideas in response to the ice storm.

“We were pleased to participate, along with the Emergency Measures Organization, in the public sessions related to the review and we thank the Clerk of the Executive Council, Judy Wagner, and her team for their thorough report and its recommendations,” said Gaëtan Thomas, president and CEO of NB Power. “We also want to thank our customers and all those who participated in these important sessions.”

“We certainly welcome the Clerk’s report and recommendations which will help the province improve services to the population of New Brunswick,” said EMO director Greg MacCallum. “We need to work all together to take the necessary steps to make sure we are ready, not only as members of an emergency measures organization, but also as members of a society. We must all be more prepared for action, from individuals, families, municipalities and other important organizations.”

The report and a summary of recommendations are available online.