Thoughts on the McMeeken Incident

We had an alarming incident occur in our City on Tuesday evening when the McMeeken Arena had to be evacuated due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide. A substantial number of people who were exposed became sick and had to seek or receive medical treatment, while an even larger number had to go to Sault Area Hospital to be checked out as a precautionary measure.

Ultimately, it’s a relief to know that the persons affected were treated successfully and that everyone is going to be ok. However, that in no way discounts the discomfort and anxiety that this episode caused, which was very real and understandably upsetting to everyone involved.  Adding to the apprehension was the fact that many of the people affected were teenagers and in some cases young children. As a parent myself, I can appreciate how frightening it would be to have to take an ill child to the hospital as a result of something like this.

I want to acknowledge and recognize our firefighters who did a terrific job leading the evacuation in a calm and orderly way and then explaining to the evacuated persons what symptoms they should be wary of and when they should seek medical attention. The firefighters have also been doing great work to ventilate the building and assist with finding the cause of the problem.

I also received a compliment from a constituent about the professionalism and orderliness of the rink attendants who assisted with the evacuation, so I want to acknowledge them for their assistance.

On the medical side, as the extent of the situation became apparent, our paramedics assisted with meeting incoming patients at the hospital and ensuring that those in need started receiving treatment right way. And of course, Sault Area Hospital and their staff really stepped up and performed admirably. They’ve been rightly applauded in many corners for how they handled the situation and I’m happy to add my voice to that chorus. They quickly realized that they needed to escalate due to what was happening and they brought in substantial additional resources right away in response. Everyone pitched in, all the way up to Sault Area Hospital senior management, and their team was prepared, professional, and ready to address contingencies that might arise.

In all, everyone involved in the evacuation and treatment pulled together and worked as a team and I want to thank everyone involved in the immediate response for their efforts and great work.

Obviously though, we are left with some pressing questions that need to be answered. We need to know the source of the carbon monoxide and why the climbing CO levels did not trigger an alarm from one of the multiple detectors located in the building.  We need to come to understand why this incident happened and, just as important, we need to know if there is something that the City needs to be doing differently to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again. We’ve had regulatory personnel from TSSA, third-party experts, and City staff working on the scene to find out what happened and why.

My commitment to you on behalf of my office and City Council is that we will find the answers, we will bring those answers to the public and we will make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that something like this does not happen again.