UPDATE: Halifax council passed Coun. Pam Lovelace's motion on Sept.26. Staff will report to council on evacuation plans a later date.
A Halifax councillor wants to ensure all schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality have plans in place that would cover emergencies like wildfires.
District 13 Coun. Pam Lovelace, whose area was affected by the wildfires this spring, will seek a staff report on the matter when council meets on Tuesday.
She said the evacuation from the fires in Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains would have been more chaotic on a school day.
"It would have been really difficult for the children to be evacuated," Lovelace said. "Schools don't have school buses on site."
Evacuation assistance using transit buses
She said the municipality could provide schools with evacuation assistance by using Halifax Transit buses.
Lovelace will ask council to consider a report on a timeline for detailed evacuation plans, as well as what is expected of the municipality. She is also asking for plans to communicate with schools.
"It's fairly surprising that there hasn't been something along the lines of this contemplated sooner," said Dustin O'Leary, president of the Westwood Hills Residents Association. His community was part of the evacuation zone.
He said he appreciates the effort to look at schools, but said daycares are a larger concern. He said daycares are often farther from major roadways, which could pose a challenge.
Two daycares were lost in the wildfires near Halifax.
"If you have 30 minutes and you have a parent that works in town or in the city, that's a really difficult trip to manage quickly," he said.
HRCE's evacuation plan
Lovelace said evacuation of daycares and seniors are a concern for the municipality.
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education told CBC News in an email that it follows the advice of authorities in cases of an emergency or sudden evacuation. In the case of the wldfires in Hammonds Plains and Tantallon last spring, "we took our direction from and remained in close contact with [the Emergency Management Office] to ensure the safety of all involved."
"Safety is priority for HRCE. Each school in HRCE has an emergency management plan that is reviewed, updated and practised annually. All schools have processes for sheltering in place and evacuating the school on foot in the event of an emergency," Lindsey Bunin, a spokesperson for HRCE, wrote in the email.
"Additionally, based on what we learned during the wildfires this past spring, we are in the process of enhancing these plans by identifying nearby evacuation locations should students need to evacuate the community."
In a statement on Sept. 25, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said every school has an emergency management plan that is practiced regularly.
Jenna MacQueen said the department is a part of broader planning, in response to recent events, to ensure daycares are included in community emergency plans.
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