Seven years after two people died and several others were injured in the collapse of the roof at Elliot Lake’s Algo Centre Mall, the Ontario government is investing in emergency response measures across the province.
On Aug. 7, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones announced $2.5 million in funding for 10 emergency response teams in six locations across the province – including in North Bay and in Thunder Bay.
The province said the decision was a direct result of the recommendations following the Elliot Lake Inquiry. The one-year inquiry examined the events surrounding the partial collapse of the Algo Centre Mall roof on June 23, 2012, along with the emergency management and response.
Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo were killed in the incident, and several others were injured.
At the time, questions arose as to why the rescue effort did not call on mine rescue volunteers, whose knowledge and expertise in emergency response could have potentially aided in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Mine Rescue is a network of 875 highly trained and respected volunteer miners stationed at 40 underground mines across Ontario, including about 200 more at various open pit operations.
Jones said the response teams would cover urban search and rescue, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive, and hazardous materials. In addition to North Bay and Thunder Bay, teams will be located in Ottawa, Peterborough, Toronto and Windsor.
"When disaster strikes, Ontario families need to have confidence that help is on the way. That's why we're providing communities across the province with funding to respond quickly and effectively to large-scale and complex emergencies," Jones said in a news release.
“First responders put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us. That's why we are committed to providing these brave men and women with the tools they need to keep our communities and our families safe."
The province said the $2.5 million would:
- provide funding for teams with specialized rescue skills to help when people are trapped in collapsed structures, assist with life-saving operations and provide immediate medical assistance to survivors;
- provide funding for teams responding to incidents involving the uncontrolled release of chemicals, biological agents, radioactive and nuclear contamination or explosions that cause widespread damage; and
- enhance the province's ability to respond to provincial emergencies and lead educational and training programs to improve emergency response.
The emergency response teams will be operated by the municipalities and support provincial efforts through an agreement with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.