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LETTER: Emergency response — we can do better

Pedestrians walk with their dogs along Carpasian Road in St. John’s Friday morning as a vehicle drives by on the snow-narrowed street. JOE GIBBONS/THE TELEGRAM
Pedestrians walk with their dogs along Carpasian Road in St. John’s on Jan. 24 as a motorist drives past on the snow-narrowed street. — Telegram file photo

So, it’s over for now. Over until the next time we get dumped on.

I appreciate the fact that the City of St. John’s, in particular, had to call a state of emergency (SOE), primarily to keep people off city streets if, for nothing else, their own protection. But before I get to that it’s long overdue for the RNC to educate pedestrians to walk facing traffic. Roads are designed for drivers and when pedestrians are forced to walk on them, they must walk facing traffic.

But was this SOE necessary, and if it was, was it necessary for so long?

I’m a retired military officer who was acting recovery commander for Arrow Air and held numerous other emergency role situations while in the military. Every six months for over 20 years we exercised emergency plans. Since leaving the military and working at the HUB, we hosted 90 people for three days during 9/11. I’m not a stranger to emergency planning.

People who don’t live in downtown St. John’s are being held hostage by that part of the city. Why it was necessary to close service stations and convenience stores remains a complete mystery to me, especially in Kilbride where I live.

The situation of minimum-wage earners who lost income was completely unnecessary when you consider that overwhelmingly, it’s often people in the service industries who are the minimum-wage earners. It would have been so simple to make special dispensations to allow these people to drive to work and to allow us to walk to a convenience store or a gas station to get necessary supplies.

Regarding snowclearing, I would venture a guess that there are probably 20 commercial-style snowblowers in this city, as well as dump trucks owned by farmers that could be called into service to remove snow. Why aren’t they incorporated into the City Emergency Plan?

People who don’t live in downtown St. John’s are being held hostage by that part of the city.

But, as we know, the root cause of the problem with snowclearing in this city is people parking on streets in the winter because they don’t have driveways. In those areas snow cannot be plowed, it must be removed, and even removal becomes a mess because of on-street parking. A $10 or $20 parking permit is not the solution. Either all parking on city streets has to be banned for people who don’t have driveways and own vehicles, or they have to pay for the snow removal by paying higher taxes.

Snowclearing in St. John’s has been an issue for over 500 years and we still don’t know what we’re doing. If I remember correctly, a few years ago someone was contracted to tell us how to do it, and nothing has changed. Still, we had to be able to eat on the sidewalks on Water Street while all the businesses were closed!

Criticism without alternatives is not worth the utterance so I will offer some suggestions.

  1. Deal realistically with the on-street parking problems.
  2. Inventory all available snowclearing equipment in the region and incorporate it into the plan.
  3. Realistically prioritize street plowing.
  4. Assign snowclearing equipment to emergency vehicles.
  5. Designate service industry providers, convenience stores and service stations, etc., in specific areas and assist them with emergency plans to open and assist them with staff to operate them.
  6. Prioritize snow removal areas.
  7. Draft the emergency plan, seek citizen input and then disseminate plan.

Tom Badcock,
St. John’s

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