Penalties proposed for those ignoring evacuation orders in Alberta

Rising water floods the Bow River in downtown Calgary on June 21, 2013. AFP PHOTO / ADAM KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

The Alberta government is looking at bringing in a stiff penalty for people who fail to heed an evacuation order during a natural disaster.

Chief of Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Tom Sampson said a proposed maximum $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail would be an amendment to the proposed Bill 8, changes to Alberta’s emergency management legislative framework.

Introduced earlier this year by Rachel Notley’s government, changes to the legislation are a result of responses to reviews of the 2013 Calgary flood and wildfires in Slave Lake and Fort McMurray.

Sampson suggested it’s important to avoid using the fine in a heavy-handed manner.

“We will have to be very careful when we exercise this authority to evacuate,” he said.

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“I assure you, we won’t do it lightly, but we will do it when necessity arises.”

Sampson told the committee that some examples given by people in the United States who have refused to follow evacuation orders is based on financial consideration–that they didn’t have the money to relocate.

However it’s important that some penalty be in place because of the risk to the lives of first responders trying to save people.

Calgary firefighters had to perform more than 450 water rescues in the 2013 flood.

“Some of them were very dramatic and some of them were extreme and right out of the movies,” Sampson said. “One of our boats that was moving down the street actually hit a fire hydrant because they were trying to get more people out quickly–and it sunk.”

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