HIGH RIVER, AB: Every four years, the Town of High River’s Emergency Management Division holds a large-scale practice emergency exercise to provide training opportunities for staff and generate community awareness for residents.
The 2017 exercise will be held on Thursday, September 28 and Friday, September 29 and will be based on the scenario that a tornado has touched down in High River running west to east just south of 12 Avenue.
“The first day will involve a mock mass-casualty incident at Highwood High School,” says Carly Benson, emergency management coordinator with the Town. “It will involve a regional response from five different fire departments, RCMP and EMS that will require real equipment and sirens. Several volunteers have offered to play the victims to enhance the realism for our first responders.”
On the second day, crews will be present in the Montrose area in order to perform rapid damage assessments based on the scenario from the preceding day.
“Volunteers will drop off information to the residents in Montrose so that they are aware of the exercise in advance and they know there’s no need to be alarmed when they see crews in their area,” adds Benson. “We have also connected with a number of homeowners in the area to secure their permission for us to leave example assessment packages on or near their properties for crews to find and use in the exercise.”
Benson adds that the crew assessments are based on photos and information found in the packages and they will not actually need to access any properties during the exercise.
The second day will also have participants in the Emergency Operations Centre providing support to field teams, planning for transition to recovery, and managing media requests, mirroring their roles during a real emergency.
The exercise will also involve the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle that will take photos of the tornado’s path and feed them back to exercise participants in the Emergency Operations Centre. The drone will be operated by a licensed pilot and will always be in eyesight of the operator.
“The goal of the exercise is to provide continuous and realistic training to Town staff, resulting in increased knowledge and confidence during a real emergency,” says Benson. “It also serves as an opportunity to remind residents and public at large that High River is Ready and we are experts in emergency preparedness.”
The exercise will include participation from a variety of agencies including the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, ATCO Gas, Foothills School Division, Foothills Search and Rescue, Foothills Community Immigrant Services, and Alberta Health Services.