City practises emergency preparedness

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March 3, 2015 8:15 AM

The City of Lloydminster held a mock press conference regarding a hypothetical emergency situation on Feb. 25 at the Salvation Army Church. From left, Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) manager of environmental and public health Don Coorigal, Lloydminster deputy fire chief Calvin Nickless, RCMP staff sergeant operations non-commissioned officer Joe Wenisch, WPD Ambulance operations manager Denise Blain, Mayor Rob Saunders, public safety general manager Doug Rodwell, ATCO Electric customer service supervisor Perry Floen and PNHR emergency health services director Chris Thiele. - Josef Jacobson Photo

On Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. until noon the City of Lloydminster held a city-wide emergency training exercise to test for disaster preparedness.

The disaster scenario was a three-day blackout caused by freezing rain. The city’s emergency management co-ordinator Anne Danielson said the situation was loosely based on the ice storm of 2013, which resulted in six deaths and left at least 45,000 homes in the dark.

Involved in the exercise were city staff, as well as emergency services and local utilities. These included the RCMP, Prairie North Health Region, the Lloydminster Fire Department, ATCO Electric and Husky Energy Danielson says the city tries to hold at least one exercise each year as part of its regular emergency planning.

“Today was extra special because we were fortunate enough to be able to do it with our local partners as well. So it was really unique in that way everyone had their own exercises they were running internally, but they fit into the larger, community-run exercise as well,” she said.

“We were communicating between emergency operation centres and sites, so that was a really good exercise for us because communication tends to be the one thing that is criticized the cost during an emergency.

A “warming centre” was set up in the gymnasium at Lakeland College, with about 25 students from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School acting as victims for paramedics from WPD and St. John Ambulance to attend to.

“They were given scenarios ahead of time to test the services that were offered at the warming centre, so they came really prepared to act out their scenarios,” Danielson said. “Some of them got a chance to make up their own scenarios. They always do a good job for us. Some of them bring their own props and everything.”

Overseeing the day’s proceedings was Craig Sallows, a field officer with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. As a representative of the province, Sallows was on hand to observe and provide assistance in the form of advice or materials. He says the exercise went well.

“There are always glitches, nothing goes perfectly, but for what they were doing things went well — well planned, well organized and well executed,” he said.

“They kept in mind the priorities of life safety and incident stabilization, set their objectives towards those and then went forward. (There was) good interaction between the planning section and the operation section, logistics and finance. The way it should work.”

Concluding the trial run was a mock press conference where city officials and representatives updated reporters on how the crisis was being handled. Following the exercise, participants were debriefed and given evaluation forms to fill out to give their feedback on what went well and what was left to be desired.

“I think everyone did a really excellent job, things went really smoothly,” Danielson said. “There are always things we can improve. If we had an exercise and there was nothing we could improve then we didn’t do the exercise properly.”

Danielson says the “after-action report,” detailing the city’s disaster preparedness, will be released in “the next couple months.”

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