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KPMG’s analysis of municipal wildfire response

An after-action review evaluating the City of Yellowknife’s response to the previous summer’s wildfires was presented at city hall. The presentation was based on observations by the KPMG team, from last summer and did not represent a comprehensive view. In March, the KPMG team visited the city to hold a public forum, workshops, interviews, a town hall, and a survey, gathering information from these events for the following observations.

According to the report, there was a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities between municipal and territorial authorities. Evacuation plans lacked organization, and there was inadequate planning for vulnerable populations. Essential services were not clearly identified, and there was an absence of detailed evacuation strategies, including routes, transportation modes, vendor arrangements, and logistics for vulnerable populations and pets.

Gaps in internal readiness were evident. Training was not widely implemented, documentation procedures were missing, and there were no business continuity plans.

Once the evacuation order was issued, there were challenges regarding the roles of territorial and city staff in this process. There was no system to track evacuees after the notification was lifted. Communication between city staff and NGOs providing support services for various populations was limited. The notice to evacuate was minimal, leaving little time for preparation. Consideration for non-English speakers and individuals with visual and auditory disabilities was lacking. Information about the pet population during the evacuation was scarce. There was also confusion about essential services and workers, and which businesses were to remain open.

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The evacuation order was lifted with a focus on essential service providers to ensure their return to the city. There was a shortage of temporary shelters and staff to operate them. Communication about the city’s preparations for future emergencies was limited.

The city manager has acknowledged that improvements are underway and not all areas requiring improvement fall under the city’s jurisdiction. Emergency events involve multiple government levels, necessitating a focus on shared responsibility. The document itself highlights both strengths and areas for improvement. The next steps involves KPMG continuing their work to clarify details and facts to form an action assessment report that is currently in progress with key deliverables. Upon completion, the final recommendations will be presented to the council, with the final report expected by the end of June.

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