By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
In an emergency, being prepared can be the determining factor between life and death. Disasters strike, often without notice — as communities strive to keep residents safe and sound with up to date information of what to do and how to move forward. Coaldale can turn to its new Director of Emergency Management Mark Murphy.
Town of Coaldale Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kalen Hastings explained the town was able to establish the director of emergency services position, as the province brought back an operation grant under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). Hastings noted there was no net budgetary impact on the Coaldale budget with the filling of the position because of the MSI funding.
“Coaldale’s operating budget was not impacted by this decision,” he said, adding Murphy was hired to help move the town’s emergency preparedness forward.
“We’re excited to have him join our staff. He brings to the town a wealth of knowledge and experience that will take our state of emergency preparedness to the next level. In order to make emergency management a top priority, you need a full-time position dedicated to achieving this goal,” said Hastings.
According to Hastings, Murphy will be building on the momentum the town had already developed in the area of emergency preparedness under the direction of Coun. Sherrie Duda who has been serving as Coaldale’s director of emergency management.
Hastings said the town appreciates all of the ground work Duda has established as the DEM for Coaldale. Due to the growth of the community and in consultation with Duda, it was determined a full-time position dedicated to emergency management for the next three years was warranted, Hastings added.
Hastings also noted having Murphy in place will provide an excellent opportunity to tie the different components of emergency services together such as fire, rescue, bylaw and emergency preparedness.
Murphy explained he has three portfolios to maintain including the town’s emergency management program, fire services and bylaw enforcement.
According to Murphy, he is originally from Moncton, NB but spent 23 years in the Canadian Forces working overseas in Bosnia and in Afghanistan.
“Working a lot in operations and planning — that type of work. I then left the forces and joined the provincial government. I worked with Alberta Environment’s emergency response team in Edmonton. For the last eight and a half years, I worked with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency as a field officer out of Lethbridge. My role there was working with 47 different communities, helping those communities build their emergency management program. Coaldale was one of my clients at the time,” he said. He also helped in High River during flood recovery, as a provincial government employee.
Murphy said his new role will indeed be an interesting challenge but he believes the Town of Coaldale is a really progressive town and it’s really building up and a lot of great things are coming to the community.
“I’m really excited to see how I can help — certainly in the emergency management aspect of the town. The town, right now, has an excellent fire department and an excellent group of bylaw officers and I will be working with the fire chief and the community peace officers to see what I can do to help enhance their programs,” Murphy said.
According to Murphy, he will have some oversight in regards to the town’s new emergency services intern program.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the town. It gives the town an opportunity to look at some individuals who may have a desire to advance in the fire industry. This gives them an opportunity to get their feet wet with some of the other aspects of leadership and of running a fire department,” he said.
One of the things the town has started to do, he said, is a hazard risk assessment — What are the hazards? What would the impact be to the town if something happened? How can Coaldale respond?
“We’re going to do the hazard risk assessment, then we’re going to build our emergency plan and then we’re going to do some training of the staff and volunteers. Then, of course at some point, we’re going to do some exercises to see if it’s going to work,” he said.
“We will be working with some of the other partners in the community such as the chamber of commerce, the hospital, the schools, some of the lodges and some of the other groups like that — who will be involved if there is an event,” he said. In an event, there’s a number of partners and groups that come together to work to save lives and to protect property, the environment and the economy.
Murphy added he also has a good working relationship with Lethbridge County and its emergency management department.
“We’ll definitely be working very closely with the county. If there is an event that may have an impact on the Town of Coaldale, it may be in the county first. With the winds, normally from the west, if there was a wildfire or something like that in the county, it would be coming towards the town,” he noted.
If the town does have an emergency event situation and it lasts 24 or 48 or 72 hours — the county will most likely be called upon for help from county staff and resources.
The Hub is home to the town’s Emergency Operations Centre and will be the meeting place for partners and groups in an emergency.
“So, we can develop a course of action and we can make sure we are all pushing in the same direction to solve the issue. My office, right now, I’ll be located in the fire hall. That may change but for the moment that’s where I’m at. It works well because I’ll be close to the fire chief, as well as the community peace officers,” he added.
Murphy said Coaldale residents will also have a role to play in emergency management.
“Know what the hazards are around you. Have a family emergency plan and if you can, take the opportunity to build a 72-hour emergency kit,” he said. The town, Murphy added, will do their very best as a municipality to be prepared and to train and to educate residents.