The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington shattered our sense of security on every level. Canadians -- who rarely agree on a national scale -- appear to be in complete agreement on the fact that the attack happened to us, all of us, not only to our southern neighbour. As a result, we are all thinking differently about ourselves, our neighbours and our communities.

Overwhelmed by the devastating attack, too many people feel helpless as they try to adjust to this new insecurity. We must not forget that we are a country of survivors -- pioneers and immigrants from around the world who have fought to build a life and a home for ourselves and our families.

Our recent history tells us we can do more than we may expect: The Walkerton Water Disaster, Manitoba's Red River Floods and the 1998 Ice Storm demonstrated how adaptable, resourceful and indispensable individuals and communities can be.

Terrorism has driven a wedge of suspicion and prejudice into many neighbourhoods. Our proudly multicultural society seems under attack. One of our best defences against stereotyping is to keep a high profile as active, involved contributors to our communities. Get to know your neighbours.

We can't go back to pre-World Trade Center confident security, but we can build a new security based on interdependence. Living in isolation in high rises or passing-nod anonymity in subdivisions is not going to make anyone feel at ease in our homes, on our streets and in public areas.

Some of those who got into serious trouble or died during the Ice Storm or other disasters may, in part, have been victims of isolation. Consciously maintaining links to neighbours and the community is vital for security always but especially during a disaster.

As you watched dedicated fire fighters, police, emergency service workers and volunteers battle inhuman conditions did you stop to wonder what your community's reaction would be to a natural or man-made disaster? What do you know about the emergency preparedness of your municipality? Do you understand how your neighbourhood might be effected during a widespread emergency? If cell phone and other communications went down as they did in New York, how would you find out what to do and how to help?

Nurture a sense of security by finding answers to those questions:

  • Contact local politicians and municipal authorities to learn which emergency measures are already in place. Seek out organizations like the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness (CCEP) and the World Conference on Disaster Management, which originated in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1989, to discover what more can be done by individuals and communities.

  • On February 5, 2001, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced the creation of the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness (OCIPEP) to develop and implement a comprehensive national approach to "protecting Canada's critical infrastructure...in both its physical and cyber dimensions, regardless of the source of threats and vulnerabilities." Canada's "critical infrastructure" involves the energy and utilities, communications, services, transportation, safety and government sectors and is essential to the health, security, safety and economic well-being of Canadians and to the effective functioning of governments.

The federal Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Arthur Eggleton, is the Minister responsible for this organization, which also encompasses the existing functions of Emergency Preparedness Canada while Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence Margaret Purdy heads OCIPEP and ensures "it operates effectively as the federal government's primary agency for ensuring national civil emergency preparedness." Why not find out what the regional representative of this office is doing for your community? Trying starting with National Defence at www.dnd.ca.

Replacing our current feelings of insecurity with a new found security and community confidence is the task of its citizens. We cannot wait for governments. We must lead our governments by declaring war on the ignorance that makes us and keeps us vulnerable. Remember, ignorance creates the battlefield and knowledge wins the war.

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