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City admits lack of communication a major issue during storm

City Manager Steve Kanellakos is looking at ways to keep lines of communication open in emergency situations.
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Ottawa City Hall (Sept. 12, 2018 / Jenn Pritchard)

When the storm hit the capital late Friday afternoon, it was after normal work hours and most city staff had gone home for the day, so there weren't many updates coming in. 

Communication was the city's number one issue during the emergency response, admitted City Manager Steve Kanellakos, calling it the 'city's biggest challenge.'

"We saw cell phones failing. We saw our own city servers being stressed because they were under generator power over at Constellation [Crescent]. We started seeing communication even among ourselves being challenged." 

He said that getting the word out to the public was just as difficult as many people lost cell service, saw their devices run out of power or lose access to the Internet. 

"It was very difficult to communicate without Internet, where people didn't have Internet with those power outages. So we were relying on radios, on radio stations but people didn't have radios." 

Kanellakos stressed the importance of keeping an emergency supply kit in your home that includes flashlights, plenty of batteries and a radio. 

"I've heard the first night people weren't getting enough information but we were pumping out information but it has to get to somebody," said Kanellakos. "Meanwhile, we're responding, the conditions were terrible out there and we couldn't hold a community meeting, so we tried to get the information out the best way we can." 

He said they are planning community meetings in the effected areas that will help provide more information.

These meetings along with the community support centres that are open now at the Nepean Sportsplex and West Carleton High School will help those with questions find answers. 

In the coming months, once the dust settles on the clean up efforts across the city, staff will sit down to examine their response to the disaster and try to find ways to avoid issues going forward. 

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