October 9, 2018 4:30 pm

Explosion at Saint John refinery raises questions over how information was shared with public

WATCH: Even though there were no serious injuries as a result of the explosion at the refinery in Saint John, questions are being raised on how information was shared with the public. As Andrew Cromwell reports, city officials admit there is room for improvement.

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The cause of Monday’s explosion and fire at the Irving Oil Refinery in Saint John is still under investigation, but there’s no doubt that it has left the community feeling rattled.

Even though everyone is grateful there were no serious injuries, questions are being raised about the timeliness of the information that was being shared with the public.

Gordon Dalzell lives in the neighbourhood of Champlain Heights, where some homes sit only hundreds of metres from the refinery’s borders.

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READ MORE: Blast at Irving Oil’s Saint John refinery unlikely to hit gas prices

He says Saint John EMO took an hour and 40 minutes from the time the incident was reported to tweet residents would not have to be evacuated.

“I really feel that there wasn’t enough timely communications to get to the public and that was so important,” said Dalzell.

The city is acknowledging that. The fire chief admitting he wished he had reached out to Champlain Heights residents sooner.

“Because we weren’t considering evacuation I had not contemplated what type of message I needed to send out to the community,” explained Kevin Clifford

First responders are being praised for how they handled the emergency situation, but the mayor says improving communications will be part of the post event review.

READ MORE: ‘We’re very grateful’: No serious injuries following explosion at Saint John refinery

“Could we develop a plan that says in a live event like this, we’ll provide an update every 60 minutes?” said Don Darling. “So tell people what we will do so that they can keep track”.

As for industry’s public response, when it comes to the timely release of information on social media, there was a 21 hour gap between Irving Oil’s Monday afternoon tweet that it would be “sharing more information as it becomes available” to late Tuesday morning when it said “We can confirm the refinery as a whole is safe”.

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