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High lake levels and flooding creating new question marks

Fire chief assures city is prepped for large emergencies

While the city`s fire chief says Oshawa is prepared for all emergencies, the recent high water levels in Lake Ontario and the excessive rain have caught many municipalities off-guard. With that said, he notes that the city`s emergency master plan is updated on an annual basis to handle any new risks. (Oshawa Express file photo)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The combination of a wet spring, historically high lake levels and frequent storm surges left many along Lake Ontario’s shoreline scrambling to keep the waves at bay, including Durham municipalities.

After flooding in Clarington, the local council is now looking at the creation of a waterfront emergency master plan to manage the municipal response for events in the future.

For the City of Oshawa, its Emergency Master Plan was created in 2006, and according to Derrick Clark, the city’s fire chief, the plan is updated on an annual basis to ensure it’s up to date to respond to new and growing risks. He says the recent flooding, which also forced closures at the south end of Simcoe Street South and has caused unknown damage to the city’s pier at Lakeview Park, is creating a new problem for many municipalities.

“Flooding is a component of emergency management, but I think what’s happened is, everywhere in the province, this has created a new obstacle for everybody in municipalities,” he says.

The Oshawa Emergency Master Plan, lays out the processes in terms of response, roles and responsibilities and operations when it comes to dealing with a wide array of emergencies the city could potentially face. These include risks associated with the Highway 401 and rail network corridors as well as natural disasters and air transportation accidents.

The plan states it is “vital that all major elements of the plan are tested annually.”

It’s something Clark says is completed regularly through meetings with the Durham Emergency Management Office (DEMO). Oshawa’s plan states that the changes can be made through Clark, with “major amendments” going to council for approval.

“We’re in good shape, I can attest to that in Oshawa,” he says. “We can handle any emergency. Not to say that everything is going to be perfect, because emergencies are just that, they’re difficult and you’ve got a lot of things to deal with at once, but we have a system, we’re even testing a new emergency management operations centre here in Oshawa. We’re doing a lot of good things.”

He also credits much of the work to his predecessor.

“The previous chief, Steve Meringer, did a lot of really good work on the emergency plan and I’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Clark says.