WEST CARLETON –West Carleton Disaster Relief (WCDR) proved without a doubt it is the premier volunteer organization in disaster response over the years (link to a long list of WCDR stories).

In 2020, WCDR switched its focus to more pro-active work in the field and has been applying its volunteer expertise to emergency preparedness. The WCDR has released a number of emergency preparedness brochures focusing on particular hypothetical events such as a forest fire.

The emergency relief organization has now released its latest brochure, this time focusing on blackouts.

“WCDR has created another in our series of brochures designed to help you and your family through specific disasters that we have identified as threats to our communities,” WCDR board member Allan Joyner released in a statement yesterday (Jan. 28). “They are meticulously researched and they tell you what you can do before, during and after a disaster event. We’ve seen the kinds of catastrophic damage that can befall us, and we’ve seen how being prepared and knowing what to do can minimize the effect on your family.”

While some might scoff at the threat of a blackout, in our modern world prolonged power loss can be a threat to wellness and safety, especially in the winter.

On Aug. 14, 2003 a widespread blackouttriggered by overgrown trees near a power line, affected an estimated 55 million people, some of whom were without power for four days. West Carleton Online publisher Jake Davies remembers it well. At the time he was covering the Fitzroy Concerts in the Park music series with main act Ambush performing. At the time, the concert goers were unaware of the blackout because the concert was powered by generators. When they returned home though, they were in the dark as part of North America’s largest blackout in history.

In 1998 an estimated 4.5 million people including the Ottawa area were affected by a blackout from the Great Ice Storm. Due to the extensive damage to the electrical infrastructure, it took up to 33 days to restore power to all of the affected areas. A winter blackout has a greater likelihood of adverse effects and during this time 35 people lost their lives as a direct consequence of the storm. Carbon monoxide poisoning was again a major cause of death but with this blackout, hypothermia, falling ice and fire also caused great harm. 

“While for many people it was considered more of a nuisance than an emergency, there were many vulnerable people who were severely affected; it is estimated that nearly 100 people lost their lives as a consequence of the blackout,” the WCDR said. “These deaths were attributed to accidents, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, and the effects of the blackout on those with chronic health issues. By preparing for blackout households can greatly reduce their associated risks. Being prepared for a blackout greatly reduces your risk of negative outcomes. Please take some time to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe in the event of a disaster.”

The WCDR mails out its brochures to homes in West Carleton, but if you would like to see the electronic edition, or for more information on WCDR, click here.