BANFF – The Town of Banff has activated its municipal emergency plan and partially established its emergency coordination centre (ECC) in response to the elevated steps taken by Alberta Health to control the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
According to a press release issued Friday evening (March 13), triggering the emergency plan and ECC is the next stage of emergency preparedness for the municipality.
“Today, the Town of Banff activated its Municipal Emergency Plan,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen in the press release.
“This is not a declaration of a state of emergency. This is a step to advance our ability to support Alberta Health, and for our workforce contingency planning. We need to make sure we can continue providing essential services through a period of time when some of our staff may have illness.”
Sorensen said the partial activation of the ECC means the Town of Banff's most senior staff will meet regularly to implement measures as the situation changes in the province and the community.
There are currently 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, including the Calgary zone, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS). AHS, however, will not confirm if any of those cases are in the Banff or Canmore.
If a case is identified in the community, AHS is responsible for contacting all those who were in contact with a positive case and direct them to take necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
Director of emergency management Silvio Adamo said partially mobilizing the ECC provides dedicated staff resources for contingency planning and implementation, as well as coordination for information sharing with the community.
“It is important to know that public health is the mandate of Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Province of Alberta,” Adamo said in the press release.
“The Town of Banff ECC maintains daily communication with the province through the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. The Town operates in a support role during this health situation to ensure AHS public health efforts reach all people in Banff. The Town of Banff is responsible for ensuring essential services continue through an outbreak.”
Adamo said while the municipality may not be notified immediately if there is a case in Banff, it is important for people to understand it is likely the new coronavirus will spread to the community soon.
"All cases in Alberta so far are travel-related," he said in the press release. "As a destination for travellers from around the world, the Bow Valley is likely to have a case emerge here. That is why we all must take extra steps to prevent the spread.”
In response to the pandemic, the municipality has implemented extra cleaning of facilities. These measures include Roam Public Transit.
As a result of directions form Alberta's Chief Medical Officer, Banff has also cancelled all events that may have more than 250 people in attendance. That includes a wildfire forum scheduled for May.
In-person public consultation activities are also cancelled or postponed, with the municipality exploring ways to engage the community online.
Drop-in programming at the local elementary and high school have been cancelled until further notice.
“Most importantly, be vigilant in in practicing personal and workplace health and hygiene measures: wash your hands often and well, cover your cough or sneezes, stay home if you are feeling ill, and call 8-1-1 if you want advice if you are in one of the categories on the Alberta Health website” said Sorensen.
“We are all in this together. By working hard to prevent the spread, and by supporting each other, our community will show its resilience in this difficult time.”