RMOW app to help respond to emergencies 

Thirty-two hazards identified in updated emergency management plan

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - emerging app  The RMOW has developed a mobile app to alert its staff to potential disasters.
  • www.shutterstock.com
  • emerging app The RMOW has developed a mobile app to alert its staff to potential disasters.

The municipality has developed a new mobile app to rally its staff in the event of an emergency and is now looking to sell the software.

"We have talked about the marketability of the app," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, adding that it may be a way of recovering some of the costs associated with developing emergency plans, a cost that falls square on the shoulders of municipalities.

The app was presented as part of the new updated Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), which identities 32 unique hazards that could impact Whistler.

"It seems unique," said the mayor of the app. "It was developed specifically for us. Now there may well be other municipalities who have done the same thing and we just don't know about it, but we think we may be a leader, and if we are, then why don't we share it with other municipalities?"

The app walks the emergency response team through any emergency, analyzing the information, centralizing the response, and sending out notices to the appropriate people to respond.

"It saves enormous time," said the mayor.

The emergency response update was presented at the last council meeting on the term on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

"This is really, really good work," said the mayor after the staff presentation. "It (an emergency) can just happen in an instant, so it's great to be so prepared."

The 32 hazards identified in the plan are ranked according to risk, from low to very high.

None were in the "very high" category but five hazards were rated "high." They were: earthquake, interface fire, interruption to water supply, minor snowstorm and a volcano.

The vast majority were rated "medium" including, civil riot, major ice storm, rock fall, ski lift accident and terrorism.

The report also provides some history, detailing the major emergencies in Whistler to date that have impacted local government.

Most recently was the July 2009 30-hectare wildfire on Blackcomb Mountain. One year to the day before that was the Porteau Cove rockslide which blocked Highway 99 for five days.

Other events include the Excalibur Gondola tower collapse in which 10 people were injured, as well as various major rain and snow events.

And even though it happened more than 2,300 years ago, the Mt. Meager volcanic eruption was also highlighted.

The report states: "Mt. Meager's eruption is the youngest explosive eruption in Canada. It was similar to that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The explosive phase of Mt. Meager's eruption generated an ash plume that covered most of southern B.C. and extended into southern Alberta..."

The report highlights just how important it is to recover from an emergency in Whistler.

It states: "Whistler's response to and recovery from major emergencies and disasters is domestically important for the British Columbian and Canadian economy. The total estimated end-consumer commercial spending in Whistler is $1.27 billion per year... A major emergency or disaster in Whistler could cause a significant decline in the number of tourists visiting the area and as a result a decrease in the amount of money spent. Therefore Whistler's ability to recover as quickly as possible, and resume tourism operations, has a wide-ranging impact on both the local, provincial and federal economy."

The goal of the CEMP is to provide guidance and direction to the RMOW in the event of an emergency. Among other things it should:

• outline the RMOW's authority and responsibilities to act in major emergencies and disasters;

• provide guidance for the continuity of municipal government in a major emergency or disaster;

• expedite the restoration of essential services and critical facilities as soon as practicable.

The update replaces the 2005 RMOW Emergency Plan, the 2005 RMOW Emergency Operations Centre Plan, and the 2008 RMOW Recovery Plan.

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