The RCMP have informed the Nova Scotia government that they want to send an emergency alert just five minutes before police shoot the man responsible for the murder of 22 people in the province last April, according to news reports. files.
TBEN News obtained documents through an Freedom of Information request that inform the internal communications of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office on April 19, 2020, as well as the contacts officers had with the RCMP regarding the possibility of sending an alert to warn the public.
Records show that three hours before the RCMP arrested their suspect at 11:26 a.m.ET, provincial officials were discussing the possibility of the force requesting an alert. But despite efforts to repeatedly call the RCMP around 10:35 a.m., the only response the province received was that someone would be in touch to chat. During those 51 minutes, three more people were killed before the suspect was known to be in custody.
In Nova Scotia, the agency responsible for a given situation must decide that an alert should be issued and then send the request and text message to Emergency Management Office (EMO).
On the evening of Saturday, April 18, a 51-year-old denturist injured two people and killed 13 neighbors in the small village of Portapique, NS. He escaped after setting fire to two of his victims’ homes, his chalet and his garage. The next morning he killed nine more people, including several strangers he encountered while driving a disused police vehicle outfitted to almost resemble an RCMP cruiser.
In all, the gunman traveled nearly 200 kilometers through several rural communities before police killed and killed him at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia.
The new records show that provincial employees were first notified of a problem at Portapique at 10:39 p.m. on April 18, approximately 15 minutes after RCMP officers arrived at the scene. Staff at the province’s Shubenacadie dispatch center received a call about two structural fires “which could not be dealt with due to a high-risk situation,” according to a schedule released thanks to Freedom of information.
Information on the fires was passed on in case the Land and Forestry Department needed to get involved if it spread through the woods. The timeline broadcast on TBEN does not include the transcripts of the calls themselves. Provincial staff were instructed to complete a spreadsheet on April 20, but it is not clear if all calls were logged or if the times listed were verified.
The timeline of the spreadsheet shows that at approximately 6:00 a.m. on April 19, the RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Halliday was in contact with Andrew Mitton, an EMO duty officer, about the possibility of needing assistance to evacuate residents from Portapique. Halliday also requested the use of a Lands and Forestry helicopter.
The first recorded mention of an alert came at 8:19 a.m., when Paul Mason, the EMO’s executive director, asked Jason Mew, the director of the office’s incident management division, to bring in additional staff to the office. Provincial Coordination Center, which is the hub for emergency decision-making in Nova Scotia during situations like natural disasters and was already in use due to the COVID-19 response.
EMO in “ purely preventive ” standby
At 8:36 am, Mew informed Mason that staff were ready to issue an alert “at the request of the RCMP”. About an hour later, an EMO business analyst emailed the help desk at Pelmorex, the company that operates the Alert Ready system.
“There has not yet been a request from the RCMP and our availability is purely preventive, please consider our willingness to send an alert as confidential information,” wrote Aaron MacEachern.
But it appears that there was no contact with the gendarmerie until 10:35 a.m., when, at Mason’s urgent request, Dominic Fewer, an EMO planning officer, started calling the Operations Center. emergency RCMP.
Fewer tried three times and were unsuccessful, but received a message that Glenn Mason of the RCMP would be in contact with the coordination center as “they would like to have a discussion on the alert message ready.”
At that time, the RCMP had named their suspect and tweeted that he was in what appeared to be a marked vehicle. This Sunday morning, he also tweeted five tweets about the shooter’s possible locations after it became apparent he was on the move. Emergency management officials had also been in contact with one of their colleagues who was inside the Onslow Belmont fire hall, where the police opened fire by mistake.
Fewer asked his colleagues to contact Glenn Mason of the RCMP at 11:12 am, and Michael Bennett, listed as the Incident Commander at the Provincial Center, called two minutes later “to let us know we were there. ready to use Alert Ready ”.
At 11:21 am, Glenn Mason called “indicating that it would be used” and asked Bennett to contact Insp. Dustine Rodier. After Bennett failed to reach Rodier twice, he spoke with Mason again at 11:31 am and learned that the shooter was “in custody”.
As news of the tragedy spread that Sunday, people immediately began to wonder why the gendarmerie chose to post information on Twitter and did not send an alert that was reportedly transmitted to people’s phones. . Many people pointed out that Internet service is spotty in central and northern Nova Scotia and that Twitter use is not widespread.
Family members of some of the nine people killed on Sunday morning have since said their loved ones could have been saved had they known there was an active shooter in their communities.
FOI records show provincial staff began to receive questions from news organizations and messages from the public, including a woman in Wentworth who wondered why people weren’t informed by an alert.
Mid-afternoon April 19, records show staff were discussing how to answer questions. The proposed responses sent to Chuck Porter, the minister responsible for the EMB, for review, have been redacted.
Premier says province needs wording
On April 21, 2020, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said staff across the province were ready to send an alert, but had not received a request from the RCMP.
“We are the lead agency and the RCMP must request that this alert be released because, quite frankly, we need this information from them – what do they want in this alert to let the citizens know?” McNeil said.
At a press conference on April 22, Chris Leather, chief superintendent of the Nova Scotia RCMP, said the EMB contacted the RCMP at 10:15 am “to offer the use of a public emergency alert system ”.
“We were preparing an alert when the gunman was shot dead by the RCMP,” he said.
Since the mass killings, a number of emergency alerts have been sent to Nova Scotia. In January, Porter said he was ready to discuss granting direct access to the police to issue public alerts, as is done in New Brunswick.
However, Porter cautioned that this does not guarantee faster action to inform the public of a situation that is unfolding.