“We contract all those services. We rely heavily on departments that are already out there — the volunteers, that are out there providing fire and rescue emergency response. We contract the City of Lethbridge to do our fire inspections and we rely heavily on population — the citizens themselves to practice good fire prevention,” added Beaton, who oversees the contracts for those services for other municipalities.
“I’m also the Director of Emergency Management for those bigger disasters that occur in the county. A big part of that is mitigation and fire prevention, so big wildfires. We try to plan and co-ordinate ourselves better every year to be able to deal with those situations,” said Beaton. Disasters include fires, tornadoes and flooding.
“The county plays a pretty big role in responding to and preparing for and recovering from all of those disasters,” he said.
Floods — were a big issue throughout Lethbridge County this past spring and summer and Beaton said the county learns everytime how to respond to the issues and get better at it.
“The co-ordination of our emergency services is a big part of that because we don’t have our own, we don’t have resources in-house. We rely heavily on our contracted resources to respond and assist. To co-ordinate them, so it’s an effective response amongst multiple jurisdictions or multiple municipalities, that’s one of our biggest tasks everytime. A co-ordinated response,” said Beaton.
Lethbridge County emergency services works with the City of Lethbridge, Town of Coaldale, Town of Coalhurst, Town of Picture Butte, Village of Nobleford and the Village of Barons but Beaton noted the county doesn’t contract the fire department in Barons for fire and rescue services but the village is a municipality that has resources that the county can utilize.
“We try to keep up with the growth. We don’t have a tremendous tax base, as many people know, compared to other rural municipalities. Sometimes we struggle to resource everything we need but we’re doing our best and trying to apply the lessons learned everytime to make our system work better,” said Beaton.
Across the province, Beaton said, there are a variety of models municipalities use for emergency services management.
“It depends highly on what kind of resources you have at hand. Our model certainly isn’t unique. Contracting those services from the urbans to serve in the rurals — that’s common throughout Alberta. Some of the better funded rural municipalities have their own services in place,” said Beaton.