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False alarm raising concerns

Lance Goosen cartoon

(Cartoon by Lance Goosen)

This past weekend, many residents across Durham Region and the GTA woke up to some unsettling news.

A message was sent out around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday (Jan. 12) regarding an ongoing incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

While this likely put some people into a panic, it was a false alarm, as a follow up alert a few hours later noted the first message was sent in error.

Unsurprisingly, both the Ontario Power Generation and the Ford government have received significant criticism regarding the mistake.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said there will be a full investigation into the situation, noting the message was sent during a routine training exercise at the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

At the end of the day, the “where” or “who” of the blame isn’t the biggest issue, it’s the “what” and “why.”

When it comes to emergency management, mistakes do happen for a myriad of reasons, and it will be crucially important for the government to figure how everything unfolded the way it did.

But the message sent out to thousands of people on the weekend was incredibly vague, and this causes concerns if ever there were to be a real situation.

While it mentioned there was no radiation released and there was no need for residents to take “protective action,” it also stated emergency staff were responding to a situation and more information was coming.

The information that came was simply confirmation the original alert was sent out in error, but what if this had been a real situation.
How many people were drawn into terror by this simple alert sent to their phones, wondering what exactly was happening at a nuclear power plant only kilometres from their homes and workplaces.

While there is always the chance of human error, when it comes to a situation such as a nuclear emergency, it would be in the best interest of everyone in Ontario for things to be done better next time.