Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deadly Ice Storm Bred Suspicion and Fear, New Brunswick Report Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deadly Ice Storm Bred Suspicion and Fear, New Brunswick Report Says

Article excerpt

Ice storm bred suspicion, fear: N.B. report

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FREDERICTON - A review of a devastating ice storm in northeast New Brunswick says many residents were ill-prepared for an emergency -- and some responded to the crisis with fear and suspicion that put them in even greater danger.

The storm in late January loaded trees and power lines with ice, snapping hundreds of power poles and leaving more than 130,000 people without power for days.

Two people died of carbon monoxide poisoning, while another 49 were hospitalized after using generators or barbecues inside homes and garages.

The report said rumours spread during the crisis that generators were being stolen, and people began using them in protected places -- resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Although the precise statistics for the number of thefts that occurred during the two weeks of the ice storm event are not available, the actual number is of little relevance to the primary point: fear of becoming a victim of crime altered the residents' behaviour during the storm's aftermath," it said.

"It is difficult to reconcile the widespread generosity and support that characterized the spirit of the area's residents during the outage period with the random criminal behaviour and resulting fear."

The report also said people were less likely to leave for official shelter, and less inclined to welcome those doing door-to-door visits to check on residents' welfare.

"Given that carbon monoxide monitoring was also being administered during some of the door-to-door checks, the failure to open the door could have had serious consequences," the report said.

Judy Wagner, the clerk of New Brunswick's executive council, was appointed in February to conduct the review and held a series of five public meetings.

The report makes 51 recommendations that range from better co-ordination with municipal governments to improving NB Power's messaging about the anticipated length of power outages.

It notes there are annual campaigns urging people to be prepared for an emergency lasting 72 hours, with reminders ahead of the January storm, but many people took no measures.

"Citizens must take greater responsibility for the preparedness of themselves and their families, and not assume that institutional services (i.e.,government or other relief organizations) will be in place as quickly as desired to maintain their safety and comfort," the report recommends. …

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