OLD — In order to prepare for a possible tornado last Thursday, the town of Olds activated its emergency coordination center (ECC).
Additionally, the Olds Regional Exposition (ORE) was asked to close its weekly Farmer’s Market to prevent anyone from being harmed if a tornado hit the community.
According to a press release from the town of Olds, these decisions were made after Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for Mountain View County at 2:49 p.m. that day.
When a tornado actually touched down east of Bergen, fire crews from Olds were dispatched to help Sundre and Cremona firefighters assess farms and acreage in the tornado’s path.
“After carefully reviewing the weather radar, the Town of Olds has activated its Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) due to the possibility of severe weather affecting the municipality, and key stakeholders have been notified,” it said. the press release.
Deputy Director of Emergency Management Jamie Vasseur said it was the first time the ECC had been activated since its inception to deal with COVID-19.
It was deactivated on June 9, 2021 “while the city remained stable with minimal COVID numbers,” he wrote in an email.
“It is a difficult decision to activate the ECC due to the resources it may take to maintain it,” Vasseur wrote.
“We decided to activate the ECC because the weather radar predicted that the storm cell would pass over Olds. It’s always best to be proactive in situations like this.
The ECC was activated just before 3:00 p.m. and demobilized shortly before 7:00 p.m. after it was determined that the storm cell no longer posed a threat to produce a tornado.
A visitor center has been set up at the Sportsplex. Anyone needing help was asked to sign up.
In the end, no one actually registered at the Sportsplex.
“But we wanted to put it in place sooner in case there were residents who didn’t feel comfortable in their homes,” Vasseur wrote.
“The Sportsplex’s concrete construction makes it a safe and sturdy building that would withstand the high winds and debris that accompany a tornado.”
City officials are grateful to ORE for making the ‘difficult decision’ to close the Farmer’s Market and are also grateful for the assistance of the Sundre and Cremona Fire Departments as well as the Health Department of Alberta and the RCMP “for the well-coordinated response”.
Vasseur says ECC staff learned a few lessons from last Thursday’s event.
“Every time we activate the ECC or perform a tabletop exercise, we always have lessons learned,” he wrote.
“This time we have learned to be a little more proactive by closing the water park and patrolling the skatepark to make sure there are no outdoor gatherings.
“Of course we cannot control where residents hang out, but we can close our outdoor facilities so that they do not attract large gatherings, which would have a significant impact on the emergency services and the hospital in tornado event.”
Thursday’s storm highlights the need for all residents to prepare for inclement weather, Olds town officials said.
A good way to prepare, they say, is to download the Alberta Emergency Alert app on your cell phone and have a 72-hour emergency kit ready in case it’s needed.