Two advocates for people with disabilities are calling for a provincewide registry of vulnerable persons in Nova Scotia to be included in proposed changes to legislation governing emergency management and 911 service.
Anne Camozzi told the legislature’s law amendments committee Thursday that post-tropical storm Fiona demonstrated the plight of many people with disabilities in emergency situations.
“As a disabled senior in a wheelchair who lives alone, I and many other vulnerable persons experienced the terror of no telecommunications during and after the hurricane,” said Camozzi.
The Antigonish, N.S., resident said in her case, she ended up losing cellphone coverage and then power for her heavy electric wheelchair after the storm.
Camozzi said there is a high percentage of people in the province who identify as having some form of disability, while Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of seniors in Canada.
“Vulnerable people are not always known to their neighbours as we are often not out and about, or people assume that we already have help,” she said. “A vulnerable persons registry would not only identify the most vulnerable in an emergency, but include them in emergency planning.”
The committee was told a voluntary registry linked to the province’s emergency management system would provide first responders in municipalities with information such as locations, the kind of disabilities a person has and how to deal with those needing help once they are located.
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Gerry Post, the former executive director of Nova Scotia’s accessibility directorate, said a registry should be linked to technologies such as computer mapping and there should be training included for first responders.
“The registry is more than a list,” said Post. “It’s a system that links different data sets and technologies from different organizations along with protocols on what to do under various emergency circumstances.”
Although the bill was sent back to the legislature without amendments, Justice Minister Brad Johns said the government is receptive to the idea and an amendment could be included by the time the legislation is voted on.
“We are looking at it,” Johns said. “This is the first time I heard this suggestion of it being added with emergency management, it makes sense.”
Introduced last week, the legislation would require phone companies to take all possible precautions to maintain cell and landline service during a major storm or other emergency. They would also be required to develop an annual emergency response plan and to rebate customers for lost service.
Companies that fail to comply with the changes could see daily fines of up to $250,000 if convicted under the legislation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2022.