Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our State Of Emergency Is Over---Why

Whew, so much excitement. But it's done now. Strange don't you think in the circumstances.

There was a big garage collapse in Kingston but no State of Emergency was declared. A huge one in Montreal but no State of Emergency was declared. Another in Ottawa and again, no State of Emergency was declared.

In each of those cases, local authorities were able to handle the matter.

In fact, it appears that our local authorities were able to handle our situation because we learned that:
  • "the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team was ready to take off from Toronto with specialized equipment to shore up the structure. The HUSAR team’s deployment was cancelled after officials determined no other victims were trapped in the rubble.

    Francis said that in the event Windsor faced a catastrophe that threatened or claimed lives, Windsor can avail itself of Detroit’s emergency services personnel and equipment, including the city’s HUSAR team."

Nevertheless, our Mayor did declare a State of Emergency. It is fine to play Monday Morning Quarterback but something obviously gave him a great deal of concern for him to react in such a fashion.

Imagine then my reaction when I read the following:

  • "An engineering firm has given the city a report on the collapse of a Dufferin Street parking garage, but it was kept under wraps Friday.

    The firm was contracted by the building’s owners to examine the structure and Mayor Eddie Francis said the report will be released publicly only at the discretion of the firm or the building’s owners.

    Because the structure is privately owned, the site of the collapse — and the cleanup — is now in the hands of the building’s owners, Romalist Developments Limited."

Wait a minute. Something does not smell right here. City resources were used to ensure that there were no deaths or serious injuries or more destruction, people were evacuated from their homes and offices, City personnel protected the site and the City paid for people to stay in a hotel room while they were evacuated and we are merely to accept someone's word that everything is okay without being given any reason.

People have been allowed back into their apartments, back into their offices "with some conditions" and we are told everything is all right but we don't know why the incident happened in the first place. What assurances do these people have to be blunt that it is safe to return?

There's something very strange going on when the City has a copy of the report that explained what happened but allows a private party to keep it secret. That is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to everyone else in this City, especially those who live and work nearby.

If it was necessary for the Mayor to declare a State of Emergency for some reason, then it is just as necessary for the Mayor to undeclare that State of Emergency by telling us exactly what happened.

This is a matter of public safety. By keeping this report secret, is the City now assuming a liability in case something happens in the future? The more important question to ask is why the City is not undertaking its own independent investigation considering that lives were at stake.

  • "Francis expressed relief that the incident didn’t claim any lives. “Everything else can be repaired. Everything else can be fixed, but you can never restore life,” he said."

Edgar did say after all:

  • "I think it's incumbent on us as a municipality to look into this ... and make sure that something like this never happens again," Francis told reporters.

    He said the scope of such a review will depend on investigators' findings on the cause of Thursday's collapse."

Until complete answers are provided to the public, in my opinion, the Emergency still exists.


We have now been told:

  • "The parking garage that collapsed Thursday morning may have already been overloaded with weight before a 10,000-kg boom drove across it, says a local engineer.

    Norm Becker, of The Becker Engineering Group, said the asphalt layer on the parking surface contributed to the structure’s collapse.

    “Putting asphalt down does nothing to strengthen the structure and it does everything to weaken it because it’s dead weight that limits the amount of live load you can put on it,” Becker said. Becker was hired by the garage’s owner to investigate the structure and help plan its repair...

    Becker said there may be other factors contributing the structure’s collapse that his firm will investigate but the asphalt was definitely a contributor."

Should we now be satisfied? Hardly.

Do not forget that this report came from an Engineer hired by the owner or perhaps their insurer. We learned one of the contributing factors but not all. The one we were told puts liability on the previous owner it seems. Gee what a surprise that is:

  • "Becker said the repair work was done by a previous owner of the property."

The scarier part of the story says this:

  • "There are a number of cases even locally in Essex County that we found building owners don't understand this and if they see any blemishes or swelling or any defects in the surface of the concrete deck they try to keep it in good repair and they feel by putting asphalt on it they will be doing something they get good value from and that is not the case for parking garages."

Given his actions, the Mayor cannot wash his hands of the matter. Unless we understand exactly what happened so that incidents like this can be prevented, he may have to declare many more States of Emergency!