Trip to learn how to deal with disaster

City council has given the green light to organize a working committee to be sent to the East Coast of the United States to gather information on handling natural disasters.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, chair of the city’s emergency advisory committee, proposed the trip to learn how to deal with storms like Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast of the United States and their aftermath. He noted the trip would be worthwhile because that area is similar to New Westminster in that it is at sea level and close to city infrastructure.

The idea came from fire chief Tim Armstrong, said Puchmayr. He doesn’t propose to go right away because it will be difficult to get around and authorities there won’t have had time to assess how they handled the situation. “It would be invaluable,” said Puchmayr of such a fact-finding mission.

He also said the working committee made up of city staff and first responders would look at restoration issues, not only physical but also to get local businesses back up-and-running and injecting money into the local economy.

A representative from the New Westminster school district will be invited to tag along. Puchmayr said one East Coast school district website directed students on what to do, where to go, how classes were being rescheduled, what’s available and what’s open.

He also said New Westminster has been fortunate not to have suffered flood damage at least twice in recent years, including this year when a heavy winter snowpack throughout British Columbia last winter threatened to wreak havoc in the province.

“We’ve avoided two potential serious dike breaches only by the small advance of summer,” said Puchmayr. “We need to be better prepared and when it does happen we need to be quick in our action.”

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