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REPORTING · 23rd November 2012
Walter McFarlane
A local resident, Leon Dumstrey-Soos, shook things up at City Council on Monday, November 17th. He presented to Council on the topic of Earthquakes. He was inspired to come before Council after reading two articles on our website (Found by clicking here and here) as well as a pair of articles written by Robin Rowland on Northwest Coast Energy News found here and found here.

“What struck me was the Kitimat Preparedness after the recent Earthquake,” said Dumstrey-Soos. “I came up with a few little comments, observations and some specific questions.”

He expressed Kitimat had a weather station at the Public Safety Building in the past. There were sirens on Kingfisher and in Kildala. However, Kitimat is no longer in the weather news and the sirens have been taken down because they were found to be ineffective outside of a certain radius. He stated the sirens should have been improved rather then removed.

“You could locate the sirens in the specific locations and segments of the community so everybody could hear [there is] a problem because you can see around the world that the sirens are pretty much in action,” said Dumstrey-Soos.

He looked back on the catastrophe in Japan and told the Council he was concerned about the contents of the seawater. He contacted the Mayor’s office about why Kitimat did not have a Geiger Counter so they can provide information on radioactivity to the community.

He was told Geiger Counters are outdated, expensive and they were the responsibility of the Federal and Provincial Government. He was told the Fire Department would be informed of his concerns and someone would contact him.

Dumstrey-Soos stated there was $33 million in Kitimat’s budget and 50% of it was spent on those who should be looking after the community.

“If we were able to provide a beautiful shelter for our canine friends, why are we so stiff and cannot react for the human kind who need shelter and who need safety in a responsible way?” asked Dumstrey-Soos. “There is no weather station, no signs, no Richter Scale. Have any of you made a serious effort to picture this community safe in case of major disaster. There is no land sea or air access to this community? We are a very isolated community in Canada, on the west coast.”

He reminded Council there was no official communication and the only reports were coming from the social media which were clogging things up. He told Council they should be inspired by what was done during Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese Earthquake and now, Hurricane Sandy. He stated they reacted slowly.

“Are they waiting for Provincial Guardians and others to act while we sit and wait confused by social media which jam the airwaves and risk precious time to get organized,” said Dumstrey-Soos.

He told Council the information was straight forward. There was a 7.7 Earthquake 300 kilometres away from Kitimat. He stated they should not have waited for information to come from 5000 kilometres away. He said people should be aware of what the risks of an earthquake are and should know what to do.

Dumstrey-Soos wanted to know who is in charge. He wanted to know if there was a plan in the case of an Earthquake, Tsunami or both. He wanted to know how to identify a rogue communication. He said it would take too long for an evacuation to get to everyone in town.

He wanted to know where the assembly points in Kitimat were. He stated he had never seen a map from the Emergency Shelter which lists the local assembly points. He pointed out these places, such as schools and churches, need to be on board prior to the disaster and equipped with beds and blankets, not after.

Finally, while he stated the hospital is modern, Dumstrey-Soos wanted to know if the Hospital would be able to withstand an earthquake.

“It is a time for serious commitment, let us be prepared. Let us work together. We don’t want to live in the consequences of Katrina, Sandy or others because of incompetence,” concluded Dumstrey-Soos.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted a copy of the report. He also suggested Dumstrey-Soos volunteer for the emergency program. The reply was that he would not mind volunteering.

Later in Council, Feldhoff made a motion to respond to the concerns raised by Dumstrey-Soos. He stated there were many questions. He suggested looking as to why the Council took down the sirens. Feldhoff thought it would be good to inform the community about why the sirens were taken down.

Acting Mayor Corinne Scott agreed there had to be some other way for the District to communicate with the community. She is going to bring a document from the Regional District Package which is an article about what to do during an earthquake. The article stated everything which was taught in schools, going under a tables, desks and standing in door frames, was wrong.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated she was involved in creating the emergency response plan for the community, putting out pamphlets and information. She wanted the community to know there is a plan, it could use an update but there is a plan. She suggested putting a best before date on the plan and agreed, Council needs to get the information out to the public.

Councillor Edwin Empinado also agreed. He hoped the Fire Department would respond to the questions.

The motion to respond was called and carried.