Mr. Speaker, three years ago, the 17th Legislative Assembly made it a priority to establish sustainable, vibrant, safe communities. Today, I want to speak about some of the work being done by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to help reach that goal by strengthening community emergency preparedness and fire protection.
In the past 12 months, NWT communities have experienced some extreme events that have tested their ability to respond to natural disasters and community fire incidents. These events can occur at any time and in any place, with or without warning. Effective response requires a continual planning and capacity building.
Mr. Speaker, emergency preparedness and community fire protection are critical. Our collective efforts need to focus on helping communities reach a suitable level of readiness. To this end, MACA is committed to several important goals that will help create and sustain a foundation with which to support and strengthen community preparedness and response.
MACA continues its efforts to help community governments improve community emergency management capacity. This includes the delivery of community planning workshops and table top exercises. Since 2011, 20 communities have updated their existing emergency response plans or created new ones. Last year, MACA launched a new table top exercise in Whati, which is now available to communities to help validate emergency plans.
Mr. Speaker, work continues at the territorial level as well. Recently, MACA began a review of the government’s civil emergency response efforts from last summer. The review will identify gaps and deficiencies in last summer’s operations and allow us to improve procedures and plans. It will also inform work to update the territorial emergency response plan that will commence in the spring.
MACA is also coordinating the GNWT’s participation in Operation NANOOK 2015, which provides a great opportunity to practice and evaluate components of the NWT’s emergency measures regime. This annual Canadian Forces live exercise is scheduled to take place in August and will involve working with key partners to respond to a simulated wildfire event in the vicinity of Fort Smith.
Last summer, the Department completed a territorial hazard identification risk assessment which provides communities guidance concerning risks that pose the greatest threat to people, property, environment and the economy. This tool can be used to update community emergency plans, develop municipal disaster risk mitigation plans, and guide development of emergency response exercises.
MACA also started work on modernizing the Civil Emergency Measures Act to ensure it provides the GNWT and community governments with effective tools to respond to our current hazard environment. Work is well underway and it is hoped that we can pass in the 17th Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, not all emergency events occur from natural disasters. Many originate in our own homes and have a profound impact on families. According to the National Fire Protection Association, households can expect a home fire every 15 years. While most will be small fires resulting in little or no damage, some will be greater. This means effective community fire protection needs to remain a high priority for the Department and community governments.
In 2014, MACA continued implementation of an NWT Community Fire Protection Plan, focused on key priorities identified by fire protection stakeholders. The Department recently worked with partners to implement a territorial-wide carbon monoxide awareness campaign and a volunteer fire fighter recruitment and retention toolkit for community governments. These efforts combine to help improve the efforts of smaller communities with limited equipment, capacity and volunteers. Future efforts will continue to build on local capacity by providing templates and tools that can be implemented by fire departments in communities across the NWT.
To help ensure adequate first aid skills, MACA is delivering first responder training to community volunteers and staff. Since June 2014, six communities have received training, with several more sessions planned for the remainder of the year. This effort has been combined with a unique opportunity to increase public access to Automated External Defibrillators. Working with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, we are combining efforts to place more than 60 defibrillators in recreation and public facilities throughout the North, and to deliver user training to volunteers.
Central to this goal are our continued efforts to help community government staff and volunteers achieve certification and accreditation as fire fighters. In 2014, eighteen Individuals were certified as fire instructors and eight individuals as fire investigators.
Mr. Speaker, improvements in community fire protection require a sustained effort and effective collaboration on behalf of all stakeholders. It also requires an effective foundation with which to ensure adequate oversight and authority for all levels of government. To this end, MACA is making good progress towards an updated Fire Prevention Act that will reflect our true operating environment. A draft bill is expected early in the 18th Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend community governments for their continued efforts in this important area and to thank our partners for their ongoing support.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.