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When the worst happens, how will your city fare?

Choose your own Halifax disaster

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It’s the year 2057 and the world is very different than it was 40 years ago, since all projections made back in 2017 have actually happened.

  • Carbon dioxide levels are higher than they’ve been in human history. The Keeling Curve, a carbon dioxide record started in 1958, was correct when it predicted carbon dioxide levels of 450 ppm by 2040.
  • Earth is well on the way to achieving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s prediction that sea levels will rise between 18 and 58 centimetres over the century.
  • Canada is about 4 degrees warmer than it was 50 years ago.
  • About 88 per cent of Canadians live in cities.
  • Canada’s population has increased to almost 52 million from 35.9 million in 2017.
  • You have a flying vehicle and a housecleaning robot.

You know that although some pretty amazing stuff is happening, there are also new risks that you never thought about back in, oh say, 2017. What do you do?

Go back to bed

Consider possible risks

Go hang out with the android next door

 

 


 

Consider Possible Risks

You decide to spend the day pondering risk management. So you do some research using your communication implant. What do you ask about?

Natural Disasters

Pandemics

Cyber-attacks

 


 

Pandemics

EMO’s helpful public-relations cyborg shares two data files: 2017 Halifax Magazine interviews with Trevor Arnason, Medical Officer of Health for the Halifax and West Hants area, and Russell Stuart, Director of Health Services Emergency Management at the Department of Health and Wellness.

Arnason says that he’s most concerned about viral respiratory illnesses, because they spread rapidly from person to person.

“There are always concerns about respiratory viruses because they can spread, not just through close contact, but through coughing and sneezing, which can be projected a few metres,” he says. “Other viruses cause a lot of global concern, and they can cause widespread local epidemics, but in North America, we’re less concerned about those because people tend to be very sick when they’re contagious. They don’t travel as far, and they don’t tend to have close contact.”

Stuart says that the H1N1 pandemic actually gave health-care providers a chance to fine-tune Halifax’s emergency response to pandemics. The result is the Auditor General’s Special Report to the House of Assembly on Pandemic Preparedness.

When you hear this you:

Go back to bed

Go hang out with the android next door

Read the report

Connect with Halifax’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO) and find out how the city would manage a widespread loss of labour.

 

 


 

Natural Disasters

You find an archive of an interview that Bob Robichaud, Environment Canada’s Warning Preparedness Meteorologist, did with Halifax Magazine in 2017. He tells you that his main concerns are water-related. He’s paying particular attention to rising sea levels and “the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall amounts.”

“One of the main concerns with the sea level is that when you’re starting with a higher benchmark in terms of where the water level is and then we get a significant storm surge, that water will make its way farther inland than it would have otherwise,” says Robichaud.

He also explains an 18.03-year tidal cycle called the Saros cycle. The tides are highest at the peak of these cycles, and the world’s finished one cycle and gone through another since 2017. Now, in 2057, you’re at the peak of another.

After hearing all this, you:

Go back to bed

Connect with Halifax’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO) and ask if the city is ready to deal with a possible natural disaster.  

Go hang out with the android next door

 

 


 

Cyber Attack

You connect with Dalhousie University, which shares an archive of a 2017 Halifax Magazine interview with Dr. Srinivas Sampalli, a professor in the Faculty of Computer Science. He says that when it comes to cyber-attacks, there’s no way to “completely guarantee 100-per-cent security.” You can only mitigate risk. Especially since cyber-security is inversely proportional to:

• Convenience
• Performance
• Privacy

Without realizing it, we often value convenience over security. “These are some of the reasons we see security threats increasing as technology evolves,” Sampalli says.

He says that because cyber-technology is advancing so rapidly it’s virtually impossible to predict how technology will advance over time—even the next two or three years. But then he goes on to explain a couple of enduring concerns in terms of cyber attacks.

Ransomware
“This is a new type of virus that can get into your system either through a phishing attack or a malicious website that you visit,” says Sampalli.

“It gets into your computer and encrypts all your files. You will get a message on your screen that says you have to pay—usually in Bitcoins—to get the decryption key to re-open your files.” He also tells you that in the first quarter of 2016 alone (yes, way back then), people paid $209 million (or approximately 7 Fresh-Water Credits, in your 2057 currency) to ransomware hackers.

Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks
Sampalli says this is when a hacker “brings down a server so that legitimate people or clients cannot access it. For example, hackers could just attack the CNN.com web server by sending a flood of information, so that when you try to visit CNN.com, you can’t.”

Before you stop the recording, you hear Sampalli say that it’s very difficult to predict how these things could affect Halifax in particular, because the Internet is global. “Halifax could experience one or all of these things,” he says.

After hearing all this, you:

Go back to bed

Connect with Halifax’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO) and ask if the city is ready to deal with a possible natural disaster.  

Go hang out with the android next door

 

 


 

Connect with Halifax’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO)

You find an interview with Barry Manuel, HRM’s EMO coordinator until retiring in 2017. The interview gives you the details on how Halifax’s emergency management works. It all starts with the five pillars of emergency management.

• Prevention
• Mitigation
• Preparedness
• Response
• Recovery

Risk assessment is a big part. “We can’t eliminate all risk,” Manuel says. “And if we could, we couldn’t afford to. You couldn’t afford your taxes if we eliminated 100 per cent of the risk. So we have to determine what amount of risk we’re prepared to live with. That’s something that the city, the elected officials, and the residents need to discuss. Then people like me will do mitigation plans, the response plans, and unfortunately, the recovery plans.”

Essentially, he says that EMO will help related agencies do a situational analysis that allows them to pinpoint problems, decide on the objectives, determine strategies, and develop tactics. “The advantage of that,” says Manuel, “Is that it’s the exact same thing you’d do for a pandemic, a hurricane, a flood, a traffic incident, the sinking of a ship, the crashing of an airplane.”

As a part of that, Manuel says they’ll focus on keeping “mission-critical services” up and running. He explains that even in the event of a pandemic, when many people are too sick to work, or they need to stay home and take care of loved ones, this can be managed by prioritizing resources.

“We don’t need to monitor parking metres,” he says. “But we do need firefighters to go put fires out in a building. And we do need police officers who will go to a person whose home is being broken into. Those are our mission-critical services, and there are a bunch of them. We’ve identified those so that we can put measures in place.

He also says that Halifax has a couple of unique advantages when it comes to disaster preparedness.

  • All three governmental levels of EMO in Canada are together in one building, on one floor, making it easier to collaborate, communicate, and develop an integrated response quickly.
  • There are multiple ways to get goods in and out of the city, by sea and by land. Manuel says it’s “important to make sure that over the years we don’t reduce that capacity.”

He tells the interviewer about a response process called Incident Command System (ICS), which is becoming standardized across North America.

When you stop Manuel’s recording, you look up the definition on the ICS website (icscanada.ca). It describes “a standardized on-site management system designed to enable effective, efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.

The ICS is used to manage an incident or a non-emergency event, and can be used equally well for both small and large situations.”

Feeling a little better now, you make a mental note to pick up some extra canned goods the next time you go to the grocery store and to get the leak in the basement fixed.

The End.

 

 


 

Read the report

You find a link to the “Special Report to the House of Assembly on Pandemic Preparedness.” You click on it and read through, keeping in mind that the report was written in 2009. Tuckered out from reading the report, your eyelids are heavy. You decide to go back to bed.

 

 


 

Hang out with the android next door

You play video games together all day and despite the odds you beat her, even though her AI works way better than your human brain. Unfortunately, she takes it badly and goes on a murderous rampage that marks the beginning of a human-ending robot uprising.

The End.

 

 


 

Go back to bed

You sleep through a pandemic and awaken mid-apocalypse, Rick Grimes-style. You go outside and a kid with a runny nose coughs on you.

The End.

 

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