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Ice storm provides inspiration for preparation

The ice storm revealed to all of us the amazing resilience of our community. Although our neighbourhood was one of the hardest hit in the entire city, we survived the storm because we looked out for each other. Residents plugged into their neighbours’ homes, distributed blankets, food and shelter – everyone pitched in. Teenagers in the upper Beach even created a Star Trek-themed community power station so that neighbours could charge their devices!

Many of you saw me ricocheting around the ward chasing Toronto Hydro trucks, hugging the tireless workers, and checking up on residents without power. I and my office staff spoke with many of you during the storm and cleanup. It was amazing to see the joy on people’s faces as their homes and streets suddenly became bright!

Everyone should be proud of how polite and patient our community was and how amazing the hydro crews were.

The ice storm taught all of us some important lessons. We learned about the aging state of our infrastructure, the mechanisms we have to protect our most vulnerable and the impact climate change is wreaking on our community.

Here are some of the most important lessons we have learned and what I am doing to make substantive changes:

We must protect our vulnerable residents

Toronto City Council has unanimously supported my initiative to create the Toronto Vulnerable Persons Registry so that we can prioritize recovery efforts in the event of an emergency. A vulnerable persons registry is a secure, confidential and voluntary database that ensures emergency crews check on our most at-risk citizens first. Many cities and regions in Ontario have one, and I am proud to champion bringing this creative idea to Toronto.

We must improve our electricity infrastructure

Currently 20 per cent of power wires in Toronto are buried. There are positives and negatives to burying the other 80 per cent. In an event such as an ice storm, buried wires would reduce outages.

However, in the event of a flood or a break in the line, buried wires can make recovery more complicated.

I have requested the city and Toronto Hydro staff provide information, including costs, that would be required to bury our overhead wires so that we can make an informed decision and create a plan.

We must improve communication

Knowing that help is coming, and when it will arrive, would have made a lot of homeowners feel more comfortable. Toronto Hydro must develop the infrastructure needed to give more concrete time lines and to deal with spikes in calls when an emergency occurs.

We must create a resilient city

Toronto needs to fight climate change, and adapt to it. Strengthening emergency preparedness and making our infrastructure networks more versatile will not prevent extreme weather events, but it will shorten our recovery times. Greening Ward 32, a local energetic environmental group in our community, has already been working on ideas to make our community more resilient.

If you have any thoughts on how we can work together to prepare for the next storm, please email me at councillor_mcmahon@toronto.ca or call 416 392-1376.

Finally, I want to extend a big thank you to the hard working Toronto Hydro staff, city employees, and for the generosity and spirit of Ward 32 residents.

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