Economic Impact: Atlantic Canada Industrial Structure Fires an Annual Tradition

Community Planning and Risk Management Not Commensurate With Risk

Last Friday I was saddened by the loss of yet another major small community employer and N.B. Icon Covered Bridge Potato Chips in Hartland by fire. The destruction of this facility is not an anomaly and given the frequency of these (roughly annually), we as a risk management community should be embarrassed at the lack of proactive attention provided to the plight of these communities.

Over the past few years, some of the community economic generators destroyed by fire in Atlantic Canada include:
New Edinburgh NS Lobster Nov. 2021,
Middle West Public Lobster Oct. 2020,
Val-Comeau May 2020,
Cape Bald Packers Cap-Pele NB 2019,
Richibucto Lobster Feb. 2019,
Paturel International Deer Island NB March 2018,
Nova Scotia Capital Seafood International Eastern Passage 2016,
Quinlan Brothers Facility, Bay de Verde Newfoundland April 2016.

As is the case in all of these fires there is a heroic response from the regional fire and support services, community members and in most cases government to aid in recovery. In the case of the fire Friday, 4 volunteer fire services Hartland, Woodstock, Lakeville & Florenceville-Bristol, RCMP and ANB.
Fortunately, all workers were successfully evacuated.

Beyond the risk to the community these incidents cause directly, like the evacuation and state of emergency caused by the Bay de Verde fire. it is really the long term economic impact which is the true risk to our region.
It would seem Atlantic Canada has a disproportionate share of total loss fires in industry. Our community risk assessments or lack thereof, create a situation where our efforts to prevent and protect fires in these critical facilities is not commensurate with the economic impact created by the loss.

Like the placement of senior facilities in our communities (ie. the L’isle-Verte Que. Fire where 32 Seniors lost their lives), the creation of facilities without holistic risk assessments is a critical failure by us as community risk professionals. Community risk assessment should look at all community risk scenarios and interdependencies including economic impact as the main driver of community risk. Following the community risk assessment, as an underpinning, there are a number of follow-up opportunities like capability analysis which would help us to prepare and protect, in a prioritized fashion, our risk treatment measures. For example if we are constructing a large seafood processing facility or a senior facility in a community with little or no fire service, no nearby policing agency, poor fire water protection etc. we would plan to build our prevention, protection program and detection/suppression/security systems to ensure we do not experience the impact of the reasonable worst case scenario.
As it relates to the Fire Service it is time to set minimum full time staffing standards based upon risk.

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