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From the Editor: October 2009

The old cliché is that everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Two recent examples of weather stories with serious implications for first responders caught my eye in late August.

September 15, 2009
By Laura King


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The old cliché is that everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Two recent examples of weather stories with serious implications for first responders caught my eye in late August.
I was in Nova Scotia on vacation when the Vaughan tornado hit on Aug 20. An 11-year-old boy was killed in Durham, Ont., the path of that storm, even though Environment Canada issued a tornado warning 30 minutes before it hit. The problem was communication – few people were aware of the warning. Environment Canada is looking at ways to improve the alert system – and that’s a conversation our industry should be helping to lead.

Fast forward to Aug. 23 when we were packing the car to leave the beautiful Cape Breton Highlands National Park amid pelting rain and phone calls from worried parents urging that we get ourselves (and their grandchildren) off the roads before Hurricane Bill hit.

Bill waned to a rain storm by the time it reached the Nova Scotia coast. The point is we knew for days that Bill was coming. We tracked its path online and timed our departure  prudently to stay ahead of the worst weather. In that instance, the communication network worked.

But the next day, the Halifax Chronicle Herald carried a photo of a group of dim-witted young adults posing for pictures on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove with the spray from the waves behind them, and a subsequent photo of the wave that submerged three of the four storm watchers. Fortunately all survived that misadventure.

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Nova Scotia’s minister responsible for emergency management, Rona Jennex, said officials will discuss ways to keep thrill-seekers away from the coastline during storms.

Again, it’s about communication, and again, our industry needs to be a leading voice in that review.

It seems obvious that communication and education are key. If the message isn’t getting through – and admittedly, no amount of education will help the chronically stupid – perhaps the industry needs to review with government agencies the way it alerts communities to serious impending dangers.

If the Al Gores of the world are right and global warming will continue to affect the weather – more fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados and the increasingly bitter wrath of winter stretching the thin resources of first responders everywhere –  then maybe their message will get through to politicians and decision makers who dole out the funding for the nation’s fire departments, for communications training, risk awareness education and the equipment to deal with the storms and fires themselves.

One can only hope, which may be our only port in this particular storm.


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