Canadian Security Magazine

Nova Scotia to create new volunteer ‘guard’ corps for emergencies

By The Canadian Press   


Nova Scotians who want to help during natural disasters will be able to sign up for a new volunteer corps called the Nova Scotia Guard.

Premier Tim Houston announced Thursday that anyone with usable skills can register with the province, which will build a pool of volunteers who first responders and community organizations can call on during or after emergencies.

“There’s no question that climate change is causing more frequent and severe storms,” Houston said. “Unfortunately, we know we can expect more of these weather events going forward.”

Houston says the guard will be overseen by the new Department of Emergency Management, which would replace the existing Emergency Management Office under legislation tabled by the government. The new department will be led by John Lohr, the minister currently responsible for the Emergency Management Office.

The department is expected to be established in the fall, following consultations with municipalities and community organizations.

Houston said the reorganization will allow the province to respond more efficiently to climate-related emergencies such as wildfires and flooding.

“We are at a moment in time when we need to strengthen our overall emergency response and transition to a culture of emergency preparedness,” he said. “The Nova Scotia Guard is about harnessing the many talents of Nova Scotians and their sense of community.”

The premier said there would be a vetting process to determine how people can help in emergency situations. The idea for the volunteer guard, he said, is to “over-resource” so that the province can avoid having shortages of people available to tackle any problems that arise.

“Where you wish you had more people doing a search, more people shovelling snow, more people fighting the fire,” Houston said.

Lynne McCarron, executive director for United Way Cape Breton, said a guard corps can help organizations plan in advance.

“So we don’t have people signing up for something that they are not capable or qualified to do,” McCarron said. “I have lots of people coming to me to volunteer, but it’s putting them in the right space and working with the right organizations that have the right qualifications.”

As an example, she said, she learned after post-tropical storm Fiona in 2022 that not just anyone can cut down trees that are especially tall.

“If they are high enough I need an arborist to do that,” McCarron said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

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