Passing the buck surely won’t solve any similar crisis

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Angela Veness took this picture of collapsed tents at Raceway Park in Oyster Bed Bridge on Sunday after incurring the wrath of post tropical storm Arthur over the weekend. It was one of the official sites people could camp out in tents for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival.

All parties well-advised to sit down, talk, develop a plan to address shelter needs

There are valuable lessons to be learned from the weather calamity last Saturday which sent thousands of tenters scurrying for shelter but with nowhere to go. A tourism operator who says the province failed in its obligation to tenters, raised interesting questions this week. He said they should have been offered shelter or some kind of assistance when 100 km/h and higher gusts flattened tents of fans here for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. We invited them here and when Mother Nature unleashed her fury, we left them to battle the storm and the elements on their own.

What happened on the weekend might be a once- in-a-lifetime occurrence for early July on P.E.I. When hurricane Juan struck in 2003, it was late September, deep into the hurricane season. Whoever heard of 100 km/h and higher winds slamming into the Maritimes on July 5?

In winter, if a paralyzing blizzard or ice storm should strike, with prolonged power outages, we expect to see emergency shelters open to provide warmth, cots, a hot meal and a welcome respite from the freezing weather.

Officials with the Office of Public Safety, P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities, Canadian Red Cross and concert organizers should have a plan in place to offer emergency help when tents are ripped apart by the wind. And it got very cool Saturday evening when fans had no option but to head to Charlottetown to flood into the malls to get warm and escape the weather.

The storm should not have been a surprise to anyone. The weather forecast predicted it more than five days before it struck. Everyone knew that thousands of susceptible people were going to be in the Cavendish area from Thursday to Monday. And when the storm hit, almost all available rooms in motels and hotels had been previously booked.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but area shelters such as fire halls, arenas or school gyms should have been ready. Volunteers needed to be called and generators made available. As campers registered, operators should have passed out flyers of where to go if things got bad. We were lucky the heavy rains missed us or things could have been a lot worse.

Many tenters will take home memories of how they survived post-tropical storm Arthur. But those memories would be a lot better had they an option to find refuge in a shelter. People were vulnerable. It just takes one falling tree to cause a tragedy.

Few people thought it would get that bad, especially after Friday’s spectacular start to the music festival. Everyone was caught unprepared. This can’t be happening on July 5 after a week of hot, humid conditions?

The process for emergency management and response involves four levels of responsibility in an emergency. In order, they are individual, municipal, provincial and federal. Everyone has a role to play. It all sounds good but unless there is a plan and people are ready to act and make a decision, history will repeat itself.

Someone has to be responsible. It’s fine for some officials to say that it wasn’t bad enough to open shelters. Those people were not the ones in flattened tents. As the tourism operator said, how bad do things have to get before shelters are at least offered to tenters. “If this wasn’t bad enough, then what is?’’

We dodged a dangerous bullet last Saturday.

Today, everyone seems intent on passing the buck. Instead, let’s learn a valuable lesson, sit down together, talk and plan on how to handle any such future crisis.

Organizations: Office of Public Safety, P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Nancy
    July 10, 2014 - 08:29

    Absolutely ridiculous! This was just another example of people taking no responsibility for their own stupid actions. Time for them to grow up plain and simple. The whole world knew for days that a tropical storm was coming. These people made an informed decision to ignore the warnings and then expected others to bail them out if they get in trouble.

  • common sense
    July 10, 2014 - 08:12

    Who in their right mind chooses to go tenting in a hurricane?? Honestly... how stupid. What did they expect?? Then to turn around and cry that they were stranded in yucky weather - Bad judgment had a bad consequence. They forecast the poor weather 4-5 days in advance.. plenty of time to get your butts out of the campground and off to somewhere safe. Stop blaming the rest of the world for your own bad decision.

  • Quiet Observer
    July 10, 2014 - 07:20

    Rediculous. These campers are adults who are responsible for their own decisions, including stupid ones. Everyone wants to blame someone else and expects someone else to bail them out. Grow up and take responsibility for your choices.

  • townie22
    July 10, 2014 - 06:56

    sleep in your car for the night. that's what i used to do when it was raining and windy at these type of events, warm, dry.......

  • Ann
    July 09, 2014 - 14:05

    How many of these people camping in tents during a forecast filled with severe weather so much as made a back-up plan? Did any have the phone number for emergency services (ex: Red Cross)? You do not get a response if no one asks a question. As for emergency shelters, they were invented to aid people unable to avoid an event. If you live in the area and lose power (so no water or heat in winter), your home is damaged so it's unsafe to stay, the event was an unpredicted freak occurrence and you got caught in the middle of it, etc...

  • HELP THYSELF
    July 09, 2014 - 10:55

    Here we have a tourism operator spouting we we, we with every sentence yet when it comes time to put the blame his we has now turned to they. You knew the storm was coming yet you kept your tent site open. The campers knew that gale force winds were coming yet they decided to put tents up and blame others when the winds blew them down. Wake up operators and campers, when you know a major storm is coming have enough common sense to get out of the way. Many things can be fixed but you can't fix stupid.

  • Right On
    July 09, 2014 - 10:46

    Excellent,,,,,,there have been so many hurtful statements,,who cares about the circumstances, we Need to care about each other. The concert should have cancelled, as the Stan Rogers was!!!! They recognized the possibility of danger to campers. Money is hard to come by and with not cancelling by the organizers, there would have been no refund !!! Wish people could be kinder!

    • andrew
      July 10, 2014 - 06:50

      maybe we were to kind , we should ban all camping week before any forecast of winds over 50km

    • common sense
      July 10, 2014 - 08:17

      Ummm... they forecast the hurricane at least 4 days in advance. I cancelled my camping plans because of the forecast. I have no sympathy for those who completely ignored the warnings. They set out, fully informed of what was going to happen, and got what they sought. Don't whine about it afterwards.

    • @ right on
      July 10, 2014 - 08:22

      hello...hello... the concert WAS CANCELLED on Saturday! And the fact that people chose to ignore days of servere weather warnings and camp anyway... no sympathy. I fail to see how those camper's poor decision and ignorance has anything at all to do with the concert or it's organizers.