In the heat of the moment in time of emergency, nothing is ever perfect.
It simply cannot be due to all the different variables that come together when an emergency arises and many different hands help lift a town to safer ground.
But for all intents and purposes, Saturday’s fire that destroyed Flexible Solutions’ building in Taber’s industrial area, showcased exactly how a town can come together in near perfection and effectively in a time of crisis.
Given the volatility of the chemical components found in the building, it made for an X-factor for emergency crews where things could have definitely gone south in a hurry if not for the quick actions of the Taber Fire Department and the other volunteer fire departments that came to their aid from Vauxhall, the M.D. regional service and Grassy Lake. There were plenty of other buildings nearby in the business sector, and residential properties not too far away.
The fire was not one contained easily as countless volunteers put in a weekend’s worth of tireless hours with the start of the week also showcasing the proper disposal of HAZMAT materials involving the synergy of various governing bodies.
Better to err on the side of caution, the town activated its Emergency Operations Centre as a precaution and kept its residents informed with constant updates on its social media. A tool that is vital in calming what may turn into town-wide panic given the rumours swirling around of the toxicity levels of the smoke emitting from the burning building and of course, the prevailing winds southern Alberta is known for. Reports from emergency officials noted a very strong level of co-operation from the public to stay clear, letting the crews do their job.
A tip of the hat needs to be made for the four volunteer firefighting services that combatted the fire, and the town for its decisive thinking and informing the public.
With this all being said, there is always room for improvement, and in this incident, it falls a lot on the public.
Many a live feed could be found on social media, submitted to different news outlets or posted on Facebook of the fire over the weekend — from the driver’s side angle with the vehicle moving…never a good thing for traffic safety. Streets around the industrial area were also jammed with traffic of rubber-neckers slowly inching their way along the road, paying very little attention to the traffic in front of them as they watched the fire.
The last thing emergency crews needed, along with the Taber Police Service who provided some support, was to splinter off their resources because of a car accident, while tending to a massive fire.
Also, when small-town gossip reaches social media, it can cause unnecessary panic. As the fire raged, tweets, texts or word-on-the-street started swirling around that Gouw Quality Onions, Sunnyside Nursery and Frito-Lay were other business buildings that had fallen victim to the fire.
In the instant gratification that is social media, people can be quick to post something so that they have it first — it does not necessarily mean it is right. Spreading false rumours about the real carnage the fire is creating in the above scenarios proves very little solace to any Taberite who may have had a loved one work at these businesses or live close to them.
Just as emergency services, the Town of Taber and the Taber Police Service and various provincial governing bodies have their duties in time of crisis, so too do we as a public in analyzing the information we have in front of us in time of crisis and panic, and be careful not to make the hysteria worse than it needs to be.