Facility improved safety in Edmonton



Jeff Cummings/metro edmonton


Mayor Stephen Mandel, left, and Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk take part in a moment of silence yesterday at the Alberta Emergency Operations Centre to remember the 27 victims who died 20 years ago today from an F4 tornado that tore through the city.


Twenty years after a killer tornado ripped through eastern parts of Edmonton killing 27 people the province is much better prepared to deal with similar natural disasters, say officials behind the province’s Emergency Operations Centre.

The state-of-the art facility in Edmonton is a so-called disaster operations hub for the province that was built in response to the tornado that left over $330 million in damages in its wake.

Inside the centre is a control room with a big computer screen at the front where officials from the RCMP, National Department of Defence and local fire departments sit in the front row during a major disaster.

There is also a high-frequency radio control room, along with a storage facility in the basement equipped with cots and rationed food in case staff at the centre need to stay there for a long period of time.

“A centre like this gives us the ability to communicate with municipalities and it allows us to put together resources that could be needed in a disaster,” said Greg Carter, a director of consequence management with the provincial government.

“Something like this wasn’t available 20 years ago”

In 2005 when floods were rampant across the province, Carter says the facility was used to make sure a community’s needs were met by providing an appropriate number of sandbags through the military base in Suffield, Alta.

Other improvements made since the tornado disaster include the launch of the Emergency Public Warning System that issues warnings to communities through local broadcasters about looming severe storms or potential terrorist activity.

Since the system was launched in 1991, it has been used 25 times — two of which were AMBER alerts.

Plans are also in the works to send warnings in the form of text messages to cellphones and Blackberries in Alberta, according to Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk.

“Other provinces don’t have the warning systems like we do,” said Danyluk.

“And other provinces want to be in the same stage that we are at, and we are looking into ways to enhance that with the better technology that’s out there.”

Follow the lead

  • Danyluk said the province is pushing the federal government in building a national disaster response centre, like the one Alberta already has.