Emergency Management in Ontario

Emergency Management

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, all municipalities in Ontario must develop an emergency management program that includes a public education program that is based on identified local hazards and risks.  This website was developed to provide Lambton residents with information about potential hazards in our communities and advice on how to prepare for, and respond to, emergencies at home.

There are a number of potential hazards that could affect the residents of Lambton County.  You will find many of those hazards listed under the “Hazards In Our Community” tab at the top of this webpage.  On each page, you will find detailed information about how to prepare and respond, should a disaster involving that hazard occur.

If you take some time to explore this website, you will find a common theme – that emergency preparedness begins at home.  One of the most important things you can do to be prepared is to have a 72 Hour Emergency Supplies Kit.  You can learn about this and many other topics on this website.

What is an Emergency?

An emergency is defined in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act as “a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease, or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.”  Depending on the nature or magnitude of the situation, a coordinated response by a number of agencies may be required.  These emergencies are distinct from the normal, day-to-day operations carried out by the first response agencies such as police, fire or ambulance and would likely:

  • Be widespread and catastrophic
  • Require a coordinated, multi-agency response and commitment of local and possibly external (i.e. Provincial) resources.
  • Require a substantial expenditure of funds or borrowing of specialized equipment and resources for the response and recovery

If a situation meets any of the above criteria, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act gives the Head of Council of any municipality (i.e. Mayor or Warden) in Ontario, the authority to declare an emergency.  Only the Head of Council (or Premier of Ontario) may declare an emergency.  For the purposes of emergency planning, the County of Lambton is considered an “upper tier municipality”, and works closely with all it local municipalities in this regard.

Historical Emergencies & Emergency Management: Natural Gas Release - Lambton Shores - Geysers at Indian Hills Golf Course
Natural Gas Release - Lambton Shores
Emergency Management: 2010 Snowstorm Emergency - Hwy #402 Rescue Helicopter
2010 Snowstorm Emergency - Hwy #402 Rescue

Declaring an Emergency

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, all municipalities in Ontario have complete authority to deal with the aftermath of a disaster.  This of course includes each of the 11 municipalities that make up Lambton County.  However, if a local municipality requires assistance, it has the ability to call upon the Province or the County.  Also, if a disaster impacts more than one municipality or requires a significant response by any County department, the Warden of Lambton County also has the authority to declare an emergency.  This action was taken in 2010 by then-Warden Steve Arnold during the Highway #402 Snow Squall Emergency (the Town of Petrolia also declared an emergency during this event, as one of several communities that provided shelter to stranded travellers).

Why would a municipality or the County declare an emergency during or following a disaster?

  • It gives the Mayor or Warden additional powers to direct personnel, resources, supplies and equipment (i.e. suspension of corporate tendering policy).
  • It places the Province on notice that their assistance may be requested.  The Province can procure specialized equipment or activate response teams with specialized training (i.e. HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials) or CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives)).  The Province will cover the cost of such resources if an emergency is declared.
  • It implements a business cycle for keeping records of decisions, actions, expenditures, etc.
  • It covers volunteers under the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board legislation.
  • It allows for obtaining materials, equipment and services that have not been budgeted for, and without going through a formal tendering process.  The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act contains a provision that allows the Province to fix prices for necessary goods, and to prohibit retailers from charging “unconscionable prices” for necessary goods, services and resources.

The Control Group

During an emergency response, a group of individuals representing different agencies would coordinate the response under the leadership of the Head of Council.  Collectively, the group is known as the “Community Control Group” (CCG).  Each municipality in Lambton has its own “Community Control Group”.  Some representatives of the County’s Control Group include:

  • Lambton County Warden
  • Chief Administrative Officer
  • Emergency Management Coordinator
  • Infrastructure and Development Services
  • Social Services
  • Public Health Services
  • Medical Officer of Health
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Information Officer

Representatives from other County departments, external agencies, local utilities or emergency response organizations can be added as required.

This group meets at an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), located away from the actual disaster site.  The two primary roles of the Community Control Group are to:

  • Oversee and coordinate the County’s response and recovery (this includes continuation of essential services outside of the disaster area).
  • Support the on-scene responders and obtain any required resources and equipment on their behalf.  The Control Group does not typically direct the on-scene response.  An Incident Commander at the disaster site has the complete authority and responsibility for managing personnel at the scene.

Ending an Emergency

An emergency declaration can be terminated at any time by the Head of Council, the majority of Council or the Premier of Ontario.

Additional Information

Government of Canada

Emergency Management Ontario