April 30, 2019 2:25 pm
Updated: April 30, 2019 3:49 pm

What does it mean when a community is in a state of emergency?

WATCH ABOVE: Public Safety Minister Ralph Klein on Monday explained the government's approach to combatting severe flooding in regions of eastern Canada, including Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.

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Many communities in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have declared states of emergency due to extensive flooding, which has resulted in Canadian Armed Forces troops being deployed to different areas.

Some 2,000 soldiers have been deployed in areas affected by floods.

READ MORE: Flooding persists in Eastern Canada: Here’s what’s happening in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick

But what does it mean once a community declares a state of emergency?

According to Canada’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, an emergency is a present or imminent event that requires quick action to protect the health, safety and welfare of people and to limit damage to property or the environment.

Public Safety Canada declined Global News’ request for an interview but provided some information in an email regarding the procedure that occurs when municipalities declare states of emergency.

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“Emergencies are first managed at the local level: hospitals, fire departments, police and municipalities,” Tim Warmington, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, said in an email. “If they need assistance at the local level, they request it from the provinces or territories. If the emergency escalates beyond the province or territory’s capabilities, they can request that assistance be provided by the Federal Government.”

Jack Rozdilsky is a disaster and emergency management professor at York University. He was on the ground in Bracebridge, Ont. — which declared a flooding emergency last week — conducting site assessments on Monday.

READ MORE: First Nations leaders call for action as Kashechewan grapples with annual flooding

“When a state of emergency is declared, it facilitates a framework of communication to be set up so specific resources can be requested and expedited to get on the ground to help with certain aspects of the emergency,” Rozdilsky told Global News.

He points to the example of the Canadian Armed Forces helping in Bracebridge, Ont., where soldiers have been deployed to help with the ongoing flood relief efforts.

“The federal government’s involvement right now with the response is what we’re seeing in Ontario with the deployment of Canadian forces,” he said.

READ MORE: Flood, wet and fears of high water: what Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick look like in a deluge

According to New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization, an emergency declaration is made “to empower the government to take extraordinary measures to address a problem” and can be made for a number of reasons, including demanding people evacuate their homes.

“We have a province-wide situation where resources need to be allocated and distributed to jurisdictions, and not every jurisdiction needs the same type of resources,” Rozdilsky said, referring to Ontario. “Some jurisdictions may need resources to be made available with evacuations. Some jurisdictions may not necessarily need evacuation help but may need help with debris management and clearing highways.

According to a press release issued by the City of Montreal, the mayor can declare a state of emergency when the community is facing a major real or imminent disaster, when the municipality must take immediate action to support its citizens’ well-being or when the community is unable to take the necessary action within the scope of its normal operations.

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Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General was also not able to provide an interview for Global News but sent some information in an email regarding what happens when a municipality declares a state of emergency.

“If a community declares an emergency, they must notify the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre,” Andrew Morrison, a media relations officer at the Ministry of the Solicitor General, said in an email. “The Provincial Emergency Operations Centre will liaise with the community, and will co-ordinate any requests for provincial assistance/advice.”

READ MORE: ‘Difficult’ days ahead as flooding prompts evacuations, military action in Eastern Canada

Currently, many communities are in a period of disaster response, Rozdilsky said, but soon there will be a transition from disaster response to recovery.

“I think what we can look towards in terms of improvements perhaps coming from the federal government…[are] announcements that we are potentially in a changing climate and that the ways that we have been preparing, the plans that we’ve been writing for disasters in the past may have to reflect that,” Rozdilsky finished.

WATCH: Eastern Canada struggles to deal with historic flooding

With files from the Canadian Press.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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