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Lt. General Russel Honoré (ret'd), credited with restoring order to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was the recent guest speaker at the Huron Challenge, a disaster planning program that was held in conjunction with Bruce Power, at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
Lt. General Russel Honoré (ret'd)
More than 200 emergency responders, politicians, nuclear power employees and staff from various municipalities took part in the first of the two-day Huron Challenge at the CAW Family Education and listened as Honoré took them through the steps that would be needed in the event of a severe weather disaster.
A native of Louisiana, the retired Lt. General also holds a Bachelor of Science in Vocational Agriculture, a Master of Arts in Human Resources, an Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration, an Honorary Doctorate in Laws and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters.
The Fukushima earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan opened the floodgates to the importance of disaster preparedness. "There is no doubt that we learned lessons from Fukushima," said Honoré. "It was a situation where almost everything that could go wrong did. The plant itself withstood the earthquake but preparing for the aftermath of the tsunami did not."
While much of his disaster preparedness was a reflection of the American system of politics and military, he also stressed several generic points that would apply in any disaster situation.
According to the retired general, anyone arriving on the scene of a disaster must stay calm and work through the chaos and disaster. "There must be somebody in charge," he added. "One person that everybody has to answer to. In times of disaster rules have to be broken in order to get things done and public officials have to decide what rules can be broken. A leader takes responsibility for what happens - good, bad or ugly."
Lt. General Honoré speaks to Frank Saunders (L), V-P of Nuclear Oversight & Regulatory Affairs and Mike Burke, V-P of Bruce Unit A
He also said that public communication and giving the media access is critical but, " ... do not allow the media to interrogate you. Collaboration is key and the person (s) in charge must stay connected with those responsible for a community ... [mayor, premier, prime minister, responders, etc].
Honoré also stressed the importance of creating a culture of individual preparedness in the home. "Everyone should have an emergency plan and kit. The plan should include having actual cash on hand in the event power is out and you cannot access any money through normal banking channels. A generator could also be vital as are food and water."
Honoré also said that in times of disaster, government cannot look after everybody. "Those who are the most vulnerable, including the elderly, disabled and the very poor, must be cared for by neighbours and family.` There should be a central disaster relief site to house people who will need it and to ensure that hospital and senior facilities are taken care of."
The Huron Challenge will continue in October, when simulations of severe weather disasters will take first responders through scenarios where they can put into practice what has been studied in theory.
"The key is to be prepared for a severe weather disaster," said Honoré, "and not just responsive to one."
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Sunday, April 01, 2012