Emergency Preparedness: a coordinated response to emergencies in Halton

At Halton Region, the safety and protection of our residents is a top priority.  Halton Region, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton and the Town of Oakville, work together year round with our emergency preparedness partners to plan for and ensure a coordinated response to emergencies.  Our goal is to create and maintain an effective emergency preparedness program that provides for the safety and well-being of Halton residents. 

On Sunday, February 26, a VIA Rail Canada train en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto was involved in an accident in the City of Burlington.  The accident resulted in injuries to passengers and three fatalities, all VIA Rail crew members who were in the locomotive at the time of the accident. On behalf of Halton Regional Council, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families affected by this tragic accident. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Halton’s emergency responders, including the Halton Regional Police Service, Halton Emergency Medical Services and the Burlington Fire Department.  Since the incident, I have received several messages from residents affected by the accident commending your efforts for a quick and professional response.  To quote one woman, whose mother was a passenger on the train, “All of the first responders took the time, in a crisis situation, to keep her calm and composed and really seemed to go out of their way to treat her like a person, not just a ’case‘ they needed to move…she could not say enough about the amazing work of the first responders that she saw.”

During the event, Halton Region and the City of Burlington’s Emergency Response plans worked just like they were supposed to. Halton Regional Police Services had 42 officers on site including Command, frontline officers, security, investigation staff, forensics, the Emergency Services Unit and the Mobile Command Unit with communications staff supporting them. The Burlington Fire Department had a total of four Chiefs and 45 responders on the scene over the course of the incident. Halton’s EMS response was coordinated among many jurisdictions, something that occurs regularly between units.  In this case, Halton EMS supplied seven ambulances, one Superintendent and two Deputy Chiefs.  Hamilton supplied an additional four ambulances and Toronto added one multiple patient bus and one Supervisor.  I would also like to acknowledge Peel Region EMS for sending ambulances into our area to help support any other emergency calls during the event, as well as the Red Cross and other community volunteers who stepped in to support our emergency responders on site.  

One of the Region’s action items, as laid out in the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan, is to work with emergency responders and community partners to improve community safety. As part of Halton’s Emergency Response Plan, we conduct regular training with local municipalities to practice coordinating our response activities.  For example, in the fall of 2010 Halton Region Police, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville Fire Departments and Halton EMS participated in a session that simulated a plane crash involving recovery, search and rescue.

These exercises are part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the Region is a disaster-resilient community, ready to deal with any potential, imminent or actual emergency. The Region’s response to the event on Sunday demonstrates that Halton is well prepared to respond to emergency situations and is committed to keeping Halton a safe place to live, work, raise a family and retire. 

For more information about Halton’s Emergency Management Program or to download or order Halton’s Personal Emergency Preparedness Guide, visit www.halton.ca/beprepared, dial 311 or 905-825-6000, Toll free 1-866-442-5866 or TTY 905-827-9833.  You can also follow Emergency Management on Twitter @BPreparedHalton for incident updates and preparedness tips.

If you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”