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City bracing for extreme cold weather conditions

The city is preparing to activate its extreme cold weather emergency response plan with temperatures expected to hit -30 C for multiple days over the weekend and beyond.

Pamela Goulden-McLeod, director of emergency management with the city, said work has been happening with community partners all week to prepare for the cold weather arrival.

"We're all working together to make sure that there's coverage 24 hours a day, and that any individual who's outside has an option to come in and be warm somewhere," she said.

Goulden-McLeod expects the plan to activate on Sunday at Level Two, which means the temperature or wind chills are expected to reach -30 C, according to Environment Canada, for more than two days but less than 10 days.

The guiding principle of the plan states, "No one should sleep outside during extreme cold weather." With that in mind, Goulden-McLeod says up to 40 community organizations have been meeting to alter hours and keep spaces available for anyone who needs them at any time of the day or night.

"We're really concerned because of the length of time and the extreme cold, you know, -30 for five days is just hard on everybody. There's a lot of staffing that has to be developed. We've got to look at how do we meet those needs 24 hours a day.," she said.

"There's just a much higher level of risk."

Medavie Health Services West director of public affairs Troy Davies said its staff is prepared for the cold weather and how it changes their jobs.

"When you have somebody fall on the sidewalk, that's not a lights and sirens call, but when -30 to -40 occurs -- that is a lights and sirens call," Davies said.

Medavie Health West launched its blue tape pilot project Wednesday in advance of the cold snap. The new pilot project will see paramedics who respond to abandoned vehicle calls wrap the vehicle in blue tape to notify everyone the vehicle has been checked, cleared and there is no need to call 911.

The hope is to reduce the roughly 700 false calls Medavie responds to every year.

"It's taking much needed resources from real calls," he said. "Another thing for us is anytime our paramedics are responding to vehicles in ditches or on side of highways in blizzard-type conditions know the risk that they're inheriting just for getting out of the vehicles."

An updated list of warm-up locations will be posted on the city's website on Friday.

Until then, the three emergency plan task forces, made from various community organizations will be working around the clock through the weekend to keep people warm and safe.

"You just can't stay overnight when it's this cold," Goulden-McLeod said.

She urged anyone looking to help to reach out to community groups in the city. There is a need for winter clothing donations and volunteers looking to help. Top Stories

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