Warm thanks to a chilly situation

It was the true spirit of the holidays in action as volunteers, community agencies, emergency response teams, and so many more stepped up to warm, feed and come to the aid of their neighbours following last week’s ice storm in Halton Region. The storm left thousands without power for days, including Christmas Day and beyond. I would like to thank the countless people who gave up their holiday plans to lend a hand.

The ice storm created many challenges for our community – especially over the holidays – but I have been so impressed by the extraordinary efforts and time individuals from across the Region have committed to help anyone affected. I want to sincerely thank everyone who went above and beyond for others, and am pleased our emergency response plans with our community partners were effective in supporting our community.

Below are just a few examples of the great work that was done to help.

  • Due to freezing rain and the resulting power outages, Halton Region opened our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on December 22, 2013 to provide support to the community
  • Fallen trees and wires blocked roadways in some areas and resulted in some power outages. Each Local Municipality experiencing different scenarios, therefore they took the lead for their municipality and ensured that their roads were cleared in a timely fashion.
  • Response to the storm started with local hydro companies responding to the significant scale of power outages. As hours turned into days, and the demand for work to continue around the clock, crews from across the province arrived to lend a hand, with some coming from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Hydro crews working Christmas Day were even supplied hot turkey dinners by the Nassagewaya Presbyterian church, who also opened its doors for residents needing warmth.
  • Police, fire and paramedics worked tirelessly and were partners in the situation and recovery by communicating coordinated messages, connecting with and transporting vulnerable residents that were without power as well as directing traffic.
  • Regional and Local Municipal staff were also involved from the beginning responding to resident needs, working alongside hydro crews, coordinating and opening warming and evacuation centres, and regularly keeping residents up to date with progress.
  • Staff from Halton Region’s Public Works Department have been arranging extra equipment for debris clean up and assisting with collection. In addition, they continued to operate all Regional water, wastewater and pumping stations without interruption or decrease in quality.
  • Public Health provided appropriate vaccination and refrigeration information to physicians to ensure their supply was adequately maintained. They also issued proper food handling messaging to the community and this information was also posted on our website.

As power outages continued, warming and evacuation centres began to open across the Region.

  • Residents were reminded to visit their family or friends as a first resort if they were without power, however, Halton Region and each Local Municipality set up warming and evacuation centres for residents across the region.  While not vastly used, these centres were in place for residents to warm up, grab a hot drink and power up their electronic devices. The locations included:
  • Burlington
      • Kilbride Fire Station: 2241 Kilbride St.
      • Haber Recreation Centre: 3040 Tim Dobbie Rd
      • Burlington Seniors Centre: 2285 New St
  • Halton Hills:
      • Georgetown Police Station: 217 Guelph Street
      • Gellert Community Centre: 1 Halton Hills Dr
      • Acton Fire Station: 21 Churchill Road South
  • Milton:
    • Milton Sport Centre (605 Santa Maria Boulevard)
  • Oakville
        • Iroquois Ridge Community Centre:  1051 Glenashton Dr
        • Glen Abbey Community Centre: 1314 Third Line
        • Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre: 2301 Yolanda Dr.
  • Centres were a joint effort by municipal facility staff, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, St. John’s Ambulance all changing holiday plans to provide 24-hour care.
  • Even the Oakville and Milton Humane Society pitched in to help with animal care beyond their usual boundaries. Local companies also took part, like the Guelph Street Tim Horton’s in Georgetown who responded to needs and offered hot drinks at the Gellert Centre, and Mohawk Inn opened conference rooms and provided hot beverages to local residents.
  • Halton’s 311 took in a record number of calls, therefore resulting in extra staff being called in to manage the influx.

Thank you to everyone involved: Halton Regional staff, Town of Oakville, Town of Milton, Town of Halton Hills, City of Burlington, all the hydro crews – both local and from surrounding areas, local Fire Departments, Halton Regional Police Services, Halton Region Paramedic Services, Canadian Red Cross, St. Johns Ambulance, The Salvation Army, private businesses and volunteers.

Keeping residents informed of the efforts in progress has been and continues to be a priority. Social media played a significant role keeping residents up to date with where to get information and help, and flagging issues along the way .@bPreparedHalton on Twitter tweeted/retweeted an all time high number of storm related messaging. Halton Region’s CENS (Community Emergency Notification Service) was put to use, with 14,000 residents in Halton Hills being notified by phone when all power had been restored and who to call if there were further power issues. Halton Region is one of the few Canadian municipalities to have a CENS system. Situations such as this remind us how invaluable this system is.

Clean-up from the storm is still ongoing. To help, brush can be put out with your regular garbage starting January 6 and households may place up to 6 bags of garbage without garbage tags and waste collectors will make every effort to collect all waste and debris as quickly as possible, starting in the hardest hit areas. Your patience and cooperation as we work hard to clean up the debris is appreciated. For more information about brush pick-up visit our website or dial 311.

As always for the most up to date information, visit our website or dial 311. For more information on emergency preparedness in Halton follow @BPreparedHalton on Twitter and sign up for Emergency Alerts, which provide information about emergencies in Halton Region.

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