Council approves emergency road construction for Westwood Hills

Residents of subdivision will have more options for evacuating

3 min read
A council meeting taking place at city hall.
caption HRM's committee of the whole reviews a report on the Upper Tantallon wildfires on Tuesday.
Dheif Daniel Yunting

Regional council has approved the planning and development of an emergency-only connection road to Highway 103 from the Westwood Hills subdivision.

District 13 Coun. Pam Lovelace brought the motion forward on Tuesday in relation to the wildfires that occurred earlier this year in Upper Tantallon and the Westwood Hills subdivision.

The wildfires burned down 151 homes and displaced 16,000 residents, but with no loss of human life.

Three councillors sitting at city hall.
caption Coun. Pam Lovelace puts forward the motion on Tuesday for an emergency egress to be constructed at Westwood Hills. Next to her are Coun. Lisa Blackburn and Coun. Paul Russell.
Dheif Daniel Yunting

However, residents of Westwood Hills had difficulty evacuating due to limited subdivision access points and roadway capacity on Hammonds Plains Road, according to a report.

Many emails and comments were sent to regional council regarding the lack of an emergency road, according to Lovelace. In addition, she tabled a petition of 1,500 signatures urging council to build an emergency exit road, or egress, from the subdivision.

“We clearly have enough information at hand to know there is a problem,” said Lovelace. “We need to address it.”

Lovelace went on to define what an emergency egress is — a gated road of a kilometre or less, not meant for regular use.

There are three possible locations for the emergency road, located near the east end of the subdivision.

Other options include using the Nova Scotia Power service roads that connect to Highway 103 on the west side of the subdivision. However, the terrain and length of these roads make it impractical.

Lessons learned

Man sitting down and speaking in a microphone
caption Bill Moore presents the after-action report on the Upper Tantallon wildfires to regional council on Tuesday.
Dheif Daniel Yunting

Bill Moore, HRM’s director of public safety, presented the after-action report of the Upper Tantallon wildfires to council.

Moore’s report recommends updating HRM’s emergency management plan, providing more training to emergency operations staff and more co-ordination with outside partners.

In addition, the report recommends improving the Alert Ready System protocols, providing HRM councillors with emergency orientation training, identifying communities that need emergency exits, establishing a crisis communication plan, and having the municipality continue with its Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment.

The report is preliminary with the purpose of showing the lessons learned from the wildfires, according to Moore.

The city is expecting reports from its fire department and from the provincial government. The recommendations in the after-action report may be subject to change or modification, once those reports are released. 

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About the author

Dheif Daniel Yunting

A Filipino reporter now based in Halifax, N.S. Awarded as one of the outstanding interns at the newspaper outlet 'The Freeman' in 2021. Graduated...

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