Pipeline Issues in Municipalities - Questions and Answers

NRCAER: Invite them in and have honest dialogue. If there’s an opportunity to train together, do it. From our perspective, the common goal is public safety, and we have grown into being able to look at regional solutions as a collective. Municipalities operate at public demand. Industry operates at public tolerance. Find out where the common ground is – what CSR goals does your company have? How do they align with the municipality’s goals? Frequent and ongoing communication is imperative to building a trust relationship.

If a municipality prefers “town hall” consultations, how do you propose to ensure that they don't become a platform for the loudest voice in the room as opposed to a forum for serious questions and answers?

NRCAER: People attend town halls to get updated, and ask questions. However, what one person wants to know isn’t necessarily what other people want to know. I always say “respect your audience”. If possible, hire a familiar to the community/qualified third party moderator who will lay the ground rules. We did this through Life in the Heartland for a number of years, until the comfort level was established. Our format includes a presentation, and then opportunity to go and visit subject matter experts at “booths” or information locations to ask questions. Most people are satisfied with this approach. Those not satisfied likely have a different agenda.

You could also consider using social media or perhaps a ‘virtual open house’ type of approach, where people can post questions. Then you must ensure you commit to getting back to them in a timely manner. A resource is Peter Sandman & Vince Covello’s Risk Communication publications and resources.

Do municipalities across Canada work together? Some of the experiences and current practices used in Western Canada likely would help and vice versa. A national pipeline registry is a great suggestion!

NRCAER: There’s the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and there have been a few initiatives that municipalities across the country have participated in (access to e911 data for emergencies is one example I know of where municipalities collaborated).

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