In case of emergency: prepare, listen and calmly follow instructions.
Those are the words coming from City of Whitehorse officials as the Public Safety Protection Plan is released.
The full 64-page plan was formally released on the city’s website June 23 before it was presented at Whitehorse city council’s meeting that evening.
The plan outlines shelter-in-place or evacuation possibilities based on the emergency, though deputy fire chief Chris Green emphasized at a technical briefing exactly what plans are followed will depend on the circumstances of the emergency. Green attended the briefing by video conferencing.
“The plan needs to be flexible,” Green said, describing it as a guiding document that will help direct a tailored response to the emergency.
Possible evacuation routes, for example are mapped out in the plan as well as 20 assembly points and reception centres that residents could register at in the case of an evacuation. Exactly how an evacuation would play out and what reception centre residents would go to though would largely depend on the emergency, traffic flow, and where the emergency is happening.
“This document is a supplement to the city’s Emergency Management Plan, which is the overarching document for emergency and crisis management within Whitehorse,” Green told council in presenting the plan.
The plan has been in the works since 2018 with staff working on it internally first before also working with other organizations like the Yukon government.
“The options and guidelines included in the Public Safety Protection Plan will provide emergency managers with the proper tools to make informed decisions on the actions best required in the specific circumstances of an emergency, and the logistics of executing each action,” Green said in his report to council. “This document is the culmination of a significant effort by city staff and stakeholders within Yukon’s EMO (Emergency Management Organization).”
The plan highlights the importance of being prepared for an emergency with a 72-hour kit of necessities (food, water, flashlight, etc.), personal documents like passports, medications and prescriptions, as well as ensuring any animals are taken care of.
A section on crisis communication emphasizes the need for accurate information going out to the public during an emergency to ensure the public gets the right information. Local media, authorized City of Whitehorse and/or Yukon government social media accounts will provide information and instructions for residents. There could also be other means to communicate with the public as well.
“If time permits, information lines will be established and staffed in which to call and either provide or receive information,” a summary of the plan states. “Be aware that information lines may become congested with callers, so utilization of other reliable sources of information may be beneficial.”
Coun. Jan Stick questioned what might happen if there’s an issue with power outages or Internet and phone lines going down. Offiicials noted in those cases, it may be that emergency responders take to knocking on doors if need be to get the information out.
It’s also recommended residents check in on neighbours and pass on any information they may need.
Shelter-in-place orders or evacuation orders could be issued depending on the emergency.
As Green highlighted, shelter orders could be in place in cases of dangerous air quality (such as thick smoke from a wildfire where the fire may not be directly threatening the community), an active shooter situation, chemical release or more.
In those cases, instructions to lock all doors and windows, turn off fans, heating and air-conditioning systems that draw air from outside, close fireplace dampers, not operate dryers, go to above ground level, seal door and vent cracks and monitor the radio or TV for information on when it is safe or you’re advised to evacuate.
“The evacuation order doesn’t come (easily),” Green said.
A coordinated approach with other agenices like the RCMP would be made to manage traffic flows.
Schools also have plans in place that would see children bused and their evacuation plans followed. Green noted that there could be delays if there are large amounts of traffic heading to schools.
In the case of an evacuation it will be important to register at a designated reception centre with the Canada Games Centre likely serving as the largest centre for the community.
As he noted tough, there is a long list of centres the public may be directed to go to depending on the circumstances.
While the full document is available on the city’s web site, officials are also working to get the plan out in other ways including potentially working with community associations, making a hard copy summary available to residents and more.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org