Emergency response expertise doesn’t come cheap

The news may be a bit stale by now, but a gas line rupture in the southeast part of Slave Lake on Aug. 25 caused a few households to be evacuated for several hours while the problem was fixed. According to a source at the Town of Slave Lake, the line was not a main, but one on an individual property on 1A Ave. SE. The fire department responded and closed off the street at both ends and started knocking on doors, advising people to leave just in case.
It was no doubt inconvenient for the evacuees, but in the end, no harm done and better safe than sorry. There is a certain comfort that comes from seeing such a response by the emergency agencies and knowing they have practiced for this sort of stuff and know what they are doing.
There is a price to pay for that level of comfort, no question. The regional fire service has grown a lot over the years and the cost of it has grown along with it. It has also gotten a lot better at a lot of things over that time. Whether it’s responding to a gas line rupture, a derailment in town, a crash on the highway involving hazardous materials, a car in a frigid river, a couple of kids drifted out into the lake and on the verge of drowning, or a plain old structure fire – that kind of expertise costs money.
Money is at least one of the sticking points in the Fire Services Agreement between the Town of Slave Lake and M.D. of Lesser Slave River that has been dragging on for a long time now. We hope they can get down to brass tacks and sort it out, because in the area of emergency response, uncertainty is not what anybody needs.
Rampant cost is also what we don’t need, and it’s up to our elected people and their administrators to figure out an acceptable balance. Folks down in Houston Texas are wrestling with the same sort of questions in the aftermath of the worst flooding in that city’s history. So are people in India and Nepal, where heavy monsoon rains have once again caused havoc. Some parts of the world are better able to cope than others.
It turns out some cities just shouldn’t have been built there in the first place. If you want to spread out in low areas, and hard-surface half the landscape, well, you’re eventually going to pay for it. Likewise if you build in a conifer forest, you will eventually burn. Disasters are disastrous, but they are great teachers. Hopefully we’re getting better at this stuff all the time, but Mother Nature is still full of nasty surprises. So are people, and gas lines will be breached. No harm done this time, but be careful out there!



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