Ensuring the safety of our residents during the ice storm

Ensuring the safety of our residents during the ice storm

February 07, 2014

On December 21, after Toronto was hit with a severe ice storm, over 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers, including many of our residents, found themselves in the dark without hot water, electricity or heat in their units. Our company implemented its Emergency Response Plan to help ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.

Staff began providing 24-hour coverage to affected buildings. They distributed blankets, flashlights, hot drinks, food and supplies to affected residents, and worked closely with residents to ensure their safety at all times.

"We have been working together to ensure that residents have food and water, but are also being informed that if they need anything they can contact their superintendent or the Client Care center at anytime," said Special Constable Fitzroy Hayle. "Seniors love to see staff come out to assist them."

Staff prepare for "door knocks" to visit residents at 35 Shoreham Drive

A tenant rep who was aware of a resident who required a liquid diet notified staff early on during the aftermath to the ice storm. Staff stayed with the resident well after 1:30 a.m. ensuring that the proper meals were available to the resident. Another vulnerable resident who was blind and an amputee was given regular support. Medical attention was routinely provided to those who were in need.

Lisa-Joan Overholt, Senior Director of Community Safety and Council Liaison, noted the importance of checking in on residents in buildings where the power was out. "Upon visiting one of our buildings, we discovered three diabetic residents who were in need of medical assistance, so food was provided to them before the residents' regularly scheduled lunch," Lisa said, adding that residents were extremely thankful for the face-to-face contact with staff. "I am very proud that staff from all across the organization have come together to ensure that residents are well looked after."

With partial power restored to one building, staff attempted to boost the morale of residents. Residents gathered in a common area where they were given a hot meal and sang holiday-themed songs together. One resident with electricity boiled water and provided hot tea to her neighbours. Staff stayed with residents throughout the day. Residents were happy to have support from everyone involved.

Patricia Narine, Director of Resident Engagement and Programs, and Mina Bahgat, Manager of Strategic Planning and Support, shared how residents made a difference in their own communities by connecting with staff, as well as each other, to strengthen resident leadership. "Residents were personally calling staff to let them know when a building had lost power, or if more supplies were needed," said Mina. "Residents knew the numbers to call, and the staff to speak to. When staff came out to the community, they were happy to see familiar faces," Patricia added.

"Everyone worked together and did a great job," said Sulekha Jama, Manager, Resident Access and Support. "Everyone that I saw working together shined."

President and CEO Gene Jones meets with a resident of Lawrence Heights at her home, after ensuring her safety.

The support extended beyond Toronto Community Housing buildings. On Christmas night, staff accompanied one of our vendors (Evergreen) in delivering goods and supplies to seven City of Toronto reception locations across the city, where our residents and other members of the community were staying warm.

"It was a great experience to show a positive side of Toronto Community Housing to the communities we were visiting," said Ismail Ibrahim, Legal Counsel, who volunteered to help with the deliveries. "You feel good about helping others."

The 10-day recovery effort was challenging for residents, staff, and many people across the city. Staff worked tirelessly, in some cases giving up holidays and time that they had planned to spend with family and loved ones, to support our residents as the City recovered from the ice storm.

Over the course of the ice storm, staff and volunteers distributed:

  • 8,000 blankets
  • 21,216 bottles of water
  • 9,340 juice boxes
  • 7,930 meals
  • 10,200 slices of pizza
  • 10,800 muffins
  • 27,500 crackers/snacks
  • 6,000 croissants
  • 9,028 cheese snacks
Congratulations to everyone involved, and thank you for a job well done.