Wilson Plain Jr. speaks to community members about emergency planning and scenarios for emergencies in the Aamjiwnaang Territory. Inset:Emergency numbers and information for members.

Wilson Plain Jr. speaks to community members about emergency planning and scenarios for emergencies in the Aamjiwnaang Territory. Inset:Emergency numbers and information for members.

By Greg Plain

AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION –  Some 35 community members attended a meeting last week to hear what Aamjiwnaang’s Emergency Management Planner, Wilson Plain Jr. had to say about Aamjiwnaang’s community emergency plan.

Participants went through a few scenarios that will assist members with various emergencies that could happen around the community.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation is surrounded by chemical producing plants (Chemical Valley) for various uses throughout Canada and the world.  Sarnia exports many different chemicals to various industries predominantly fuel-based industries.

Wilson told the group what his role was and the ways the First Nation is being kept safe by having the Aamjiwnaang’s office work with the emergency planning officers at the various plants. The Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization (CVECO) and the entire Chemical Valley has adopted the code system that all the locals understand and know how they should respond in case of an emergency.

CVECO Code – What it means:

CODE 5 Incident outside of industry potentially requiring CVECO assistance

CODE 6 Full traffic control requested in designated areas

CODE 7 Bomb threat

CODE 8 Notification by a CVECO member of an internal abnormal occurrence. No action taking by CVECO responders

CODE 9 Request for response by Municipal Fire Department

The morning of the meeting, Imperial Oil group approximately 1 km up the road from the Aamjiwnaang boundaries had a Code 8 emergency within their unit and said we should “Shelter in Place”. The term means exactly that stay indoors until the all clear is sounded as there is a substance potentially in the air that could be harmful to the environment and yourself. Approximately 20 minutes later it was found that there was a faulty alarm system that got a false reading and the all clear was sounded.

Wilson told the group assembled that this was a wake-up call for the day.  Had this been a real release of the Hydrogen Sulfide it would have been a very dangerous situation for humans and animals who may have breathed the substance in.  The emergency planning meeting could not have come at a better time to provide a reminder to band members of procedures when a “Shelter in Place” or “Evacuation” is issued. Community members had many questions on what to do in case of emergency.

Aamjiwnaang has its own “Aamjiwnaang Notification System” that is controlled through the Nation (Emergency Planner) that will inform membership as to what the emergency whether it is related to Chemical Valley or bus cancellations or community event changes. This notification is run through home phone notification and mainly a text messaging system as most members do have the smart phones to access this information within minutes of an emergency happening.

Mr. Plain then took the group through a few scenarios of problems and if it were to be a “Shelter in Place” how to keep yourself and your families safe, also should it be an Emergency where we must all vacate the Nation where to go and what to do when they got there.

There has not been an Evacuation at Aamjiwnaang since the early 1990s when a one of the plants had a very large fire on its tank farm and the Nation evacuated for a two day period. Members followed protocol in place and left their homes until the fire was put out and the all clear was sounded.

Wilson will continue to have these meetings to discuss with various sectors of the community (Elders and youth) until all members understand the reality of the potential problems and how we can mitigate that immediate emergency as best as we can by keep safe due to educational materials and talks to ensure membership understand the risks.