Black Diamond’s council chambers is now an Emergency Co-ordination Centre as the Town prepares for the coming days in the face of COVID-19.
The centre was activated Tuesday to serve as the Town’s nucleus to determine, anticipate and support the needs of the community during the pandemic.
Black Diamond fire chief and director of emergency management Jamie Campbell, in collaboration with manager of legislative services Verna Staples, is working at the centre to co-ordinate messaging for the community and ensure critical infrastructure and business continuity is in place for such essential services as sewer, water, garbage and emergency services.
“We opened the Emergency Co-ordination Centre to ensure our messaging was appropriate and consistent,” said Campbell. “There was mass hysteria and everybody was buying everything because they’re reading social media and certain news outlets. If this gets to the point where we’re told 'Do not leave your house' we will put in place measures to help people get food, medication and all the things they need.”
Campbell said the centre is currently operating at a basic level as the Town makes preparations for the future.
“We are preparing to use facilities for mass quarantine shelters for vulnerable populations,” he said. “If a case pops up in the High Country Lodge, what are we going to do with everybody? Those are the things we start planning for.”
Campbell said Alberta moved from contamination status to mitigation because the virus is now in communities.
“Unfortunately people didn’t self-isolate and that’s why we’re at the steps we are with the province,” he said. “They’re trying to tie GIS information to where they identify cases where you may not know it’s at a particular house but you know it’s in Black Diamond. It will help folks to better plan.”
To comply with social distancing, Campbell said the fire department ceased its inspections in homes and businesses and Monday night training.
At the centre, Campbell is continuously checking https://www.alberta.ca/index.aspx for updates to ensure the Town is up to speed on what’s going on in the province and knows what it needs to prepare and how it will be impacted by decisions made by the provincial and federal governments.
With the two presumptive cases of COVID-19 on March 7 increasing to 119 confirmed cases by Wednesday, Campbell said Black Diamond must be ready.
“It’s exponentially increasing,” he said. “Self-isolation is critical. As hard as it may be we need people to really start focusing on don’t go out, don’t visit with people, because that’s what allows it to spread.”
While the town office is currently open, chief administrative officer Sharlene Brown told council at its March 18 meeting that many departments have shut down with the exception of essential services. She said some staff are working remotely for social distancing purposes.
Parks and recreation ceased operations on March 16, she said.
“We are focusing on essential services like potable water distribution and garbage collection,” she said. “All other positions will not be deemed as essential services at this point in time. What is deemed essential might be the only things that are getting done.”
Brown said it’s going to be a long time before things get back to normal.
“There is no social gathering places for people any more,” she said. “National parks were closed down yesterday (Tuesday), all recreation centres were closed.”
Any new information from the provincial or federal governments or the Town of Black Diamond - including details about businesses providing delivery services - is available at http://town.blackdiamond.ab.ca/. The website is updated daily.
Anyone with questions beyond what’s on the town website can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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