Communities Train for Emergencies Over 3 Days

Alberta Energy and Utilities Board engineer, Doug Innes of Calgary addresses members of the Surface Rights Society No. 52 in Metiskow. ©Provost News Photo.

Sessions that helped prepare local volunteers and officials to deal with a potential emergency were held in Provost over three days at the hall in town.

The exercises, held February 3 to 5 had people thrust into situations that dealt with a fictitious: forest fire, a dangerous goods spill, a plane crash (there are over 1,000 flights a day that pass over Alberta that do not originate or terminate in this province) while on Wednesday the scenario was an invented tornado hit in the community.

Each exercise took about an hour and a half.

Emergency training centre manager for a company called fire etc., George Roddick of Viking was present to co-ordinate planning and set the stage for a “disaster” that others suddenly had to cope with.

He said the idea is to teach people and agencies to work together during a major disaster. Individual skills were not taught.

There were nearly 30 people at the session and they were divided into groups kept in separate rooms in the hall.

When Roddick set the staged emergency in motion one group was given information about a tornado that hit a community called “Pavement Narrows.” Maps that actually showed the town of Whitecourt but with creative name changes were supplied as well as radios and other means of communication.

Those people at the “site” of the disaster which was a simulated high school and also a mobile trailer park had to call for back-up to another group who then had to deal with emergency responses.

Taking part in the exercise was the Town of Provost, M.D. 52, Edgerton and Chauvin area and some councillors as well as police, medical workers, public works, firemen and others.

Funding for the exercise was provided through a Municipal 2000 program.

Jo-Ann Gourlay was co-ordinating the event for the Town of Provost.

Roddick told The News that the province recommends each community to stage an exercise once at least every four years. At one of the last such sessions several years ago held at the M.D. a real emergency disrupted the training session that had to end early.

Provincial emergency management district officer for Alberta, Bill Boskwick of St. Paul participated in three of the four training sessions.

After the exercise a debriefing was held and comments and questions were put forward at a round table meeting.

Roddick said at that time if a real emergency took place it is possible that the Province of Alberta would pay some extra-ordinary expenses, but cautioned that such commitments are not made in advance.

Roddick also suggested that aerial photos of the community and near-by area would be helpful in case of disaster. Such photos can be “invaluable” he stated.

One of the key people appointed during the exercise was Ian Greene who was named a site manager. He noted afterwards that one of the most frustrating times his group experienced (at the emergency site) was a sudden loss of radio communication. “That was a number one priority at the time” he told the entire group afterwards. Ham radio operators were “called” upon during the simulation to aid with communication.

On Wednesday afternoon deputy chief of operations for the emergency services of Red Deer, Jim Pendergast also spoke to the group. He described an anhydrous ammonia spill when a train derailed two years ago. He showed slides and described how he dealt with the event that was near a highway overpass by Red Deer.

If a real emergency occurs in the Provost vicinity the centre of focus for operations will be the M.D. 52 building in town.

Roddick appeared satisfied that progress had taken place over the three days of role-playing and how people reacted to possible disasters. “It prepares the community for a real emergency. It is training.”

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