Following up on the recommendations of the Elliot Lake Inquiry, the province is creating a Light Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, to be based in Thunder Bay.
The new USAR team will ensure that specialized equipment and resources can be more quickly deployed in an emergency.
The move is part of the province’s new Emergency Management Action Plan.
The province will additionally be recruiting a dedicated Chief of Emergency Management to “help ensure effective oversight and governance of emergency management across Ontario.”
“The safety of the people of Ontario is our top priority, and the government must be prepared to respond to any type of emergency. In times of crisis, rapid and effective emergency response saves lives and helps communities recover quickly,” said Marie-France Lalonde, minister of community safety and correctional services, in a Dec. 1 release.
“We have learned important lessons from recent emergencies in Ontario. This review and transformation will result in a better, more effective emergency management system in Ontario.”
Among other changes, the province will introduce a performance measurement mechanism for continuous improvement, update legislation so that it’s consistent with national and international best practices, release an updated Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan by the end of 2017, pursue agreements with neighbouring jurisdictions to share support and resources in an emergency, and improve the supply chain and logistics program.
The Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry was created on July 19, 2012, in response to the collapse of the roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake. Two people died and several more were injured in the incident.
The inquiry evaluated the events that led to the collapse, relevant legislation and procedures, and the emergency response.
In his final report, released Oct. 15, 2014, Justice Paul Bélanger commended the efforts of rescuers, but said the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Unit could have been deployed more rapidly, and not enough personnel were sent from either HUSAR or the OPP’s search and rescue team.
“The lack of an incident action plan was detrimental to the rescue effort,” Bélanger wrote.
“Ontario’s urban search and rescue system needs a careful re-examination to provide better overall geographical coverage and quality of service.”