After Fiona, voices in N.S. call for a register of vulnerable people


Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Two disability advocates are calling for a provincial registry of vulnerable people in Nova Scotia to be included in proposed changes to legislation governing emergency management and 911 service.

Anne Camozzi told the Standing Committee on Law Amendments on Thursday that post-tropical storm Fiona has shone a light on the plight of many people with disabilities in emergency situations.

As a disabled elderly person in a wheelchair who lives alone, Ms Camozzi said she experienced, like many other vulnerable people, “the terror of the lack of telecommunications during and after the hurricane”.

The Antigonish resident said in her case that she ended up losing her cell phone coverage and then the power to her heavy electric wheelchair after the storm.

Ms. Camozzi pointed out that there is a high percentage of people in the province who identify as having some form of disability, while Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of seniors in Canada.

“A vulnerable people registry would not only identify the most vulnerable people in an emergency, but also allow them to be included in contingency planning,” she said.

The committee was told that a voluntary registry linked to the province’s emergency management system would provide municipal first responders with information such as locations, the type of disability a person has and how to deal with those who need help once they are located.

Gerry Post, the former head of Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Directorate, argued that a registry should be linked to technologies like computer mapping and that training should be included for first responders.

« The registry is more than a list, » said Mr. Post. It is a system that links different datasets and technologies from different organizations together with protocols on what to do in various emergency circumstances.”

Although the bill was sent back to the legislature without amendment, Justice Minister Brad Johns said the government was receptive to the idea and an amendment could be included when the legislation is passed. .

Introduced last week, the legislation would require phone companies to take every precaution possible to maintain cell and landline service during a major storm or other emergency. They would also be required to develop an annual emergency response plan and reimburse customers in the event of loss of service.

Companies that fail to comply with the changes could face daily fines of up to $250,000 if found guilty under the legislation.


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