A person on a smartphone. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / portosabbiaA person on a smartphone. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / portosabbia

Chatham-Kent to explore mass communication strategy

Chatham-Kent council is reconsidering the way it communicates with residents after a fire at the water treatment plant in Wheatley triggered a boil water advisory.

West Kent Councillor Lauren Anderson entered a successful motion Monday to explore mass communication strategy. Council approved the waiving of the notice period in order for it to be voted on that night.

Anderson asked staff to look into a mass information sharing system, such as instant alerts, text messaging and automated calls, with recommendations and pricing brought back to council as soon as possible.

Noting that some people didn't become aware of the water advisory until several days later, Anderson said better communication was never a bad thing.

"I think there's always room for improvement," said Anderson.

Earlier this month, Chatham-Kent emergency officials noted they faced obstacles getting information out during recent weather events.

Chatham-Kent's Chief Administrative Officer Michael Duben agreed with the need for a strategy.

He said there will never be one answer, but suggested the idea of a subscription for municipal alerts, adding it would only help those who sign up for the service.

“We’re still going to have to find other ways to communicate and cover as much ground as best we can,” said Duben. “If it’s not for boil water advisories, who knows what’s going to come up in the future where having some method to get to people is going to be helpful.”

In an update on Monday, officials said that the damage caused by the blaze is still being assessed, but water samples are being taken and will be expedited.

"We continue to gather information on the extent of the damage and will be providing a timeline for restoration of full service as soon as possible," Tim Sunderland, general manager of the Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission, said in a media release.

The boil water advisory applies to Wheatley and Tilbury residents. Those affected can get the latest information on the boil advisory by calling 519-436-3240.

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