Civil Defense and the Cold War
While the cold war played out between the United States and the Soviet Union, Fort William and Port Arthur sat at the centre of continental shipping and right beside North America's largest fresh water supply. Canada allied itself with other Western nations through organizations such as NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and worked with the United States on military defences through NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command.)
Strategies were needed to keep Thunder Bay's citizens and other Canadians safe in the event of any type of nuclear attack. Throughout the 1960s, information was distributed in the form of pamphlets and books, describing ways to survive nuclear attacks, protect oneself from nuclear fallout, and how to obtain and organize proper emergency supplies.
Air Raid Sirens
Air raid sirens were installed in both Fort William and Port Arthur in the early 1960s by the Department of National Defence. The sirens would be sounded in the event of an attack on North America, or if there were a risk of nuclear fallout. The warning signal was described as a wailing tone of three to five minutes.
The sirens were owned and operated by the Department of National Defence co-ordinating with the Emergency Measures Organization. The maintenance of the sirens was vital: a local contractor was commissioned to make inspections and oversee any repairs.
Port Arthur established six siren locations, primarily on public property:
- Site 1: Located on the property of Strathcona Golf Course. The area required by the siren was approximately 144 sq. ft.,
- Site 2: Located on the City-owned boulevard at the corner of Agness St. and Shuniah St.
- Site 3: Located on the Southwest corner of City-owned property of North 191’ of Lot 3B Con. A, adjacent to the West End Recreation Association property on Clarkson St.
- Site 4: Located at the site of the proposed new Fire Hall on Memorial Ave.
- Site 5: Located on the roof of the Public Utilities Bldg, property of the Port Arthur Utilities Commission. The building is situated on the whole southern half of the area bounded by St. Paul, Lower Van Norman and North Cumberland Streets. This siren, mounted on the roof, was only accessible through the building.
- Site 6: Located on private property, 516 Harold Street, Port Arthur.
Five siren locations in Fort William were established to reach the maximum number of citizens:
- Site 1: Located at the intersection of Empire and King Streets in the Board of Works Yard.
- Site 2: Located on the roof of the Fort William Gardens, at the intersection of Vickers and Miles Streets.
- Site 3: Located at the intersection of Home and Frances Streets.
- Site 4: Located at the intersection of Atlantic and McLaughlin.
- Site 5: Located at Murray’s Spring Alignment Service, near the intersection of Arthur Street and Edward Street.
By the late 1970s, air raid sirens were no longer considered to be useful in protecting the population. Missile technology had advanced so that a strike could occur fifteen minutes or less after launch, rather than the 3-4 hour delay of the 1960s. A siren warning would do little. Funding for siren maintenance was reduced, and they were eventually dismantled.