Tribune Express - - ACTUALITÉS / NEWS - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN gregg.chamberlain@eap.on.ca

If a tor­na­do ever whirls through Haw­kes­bu­ry like it did through Dun­ro­bin and Ga­ti­neau, lo­cal emer­gen­cy ser­vices crews and other agen­cies will be rea­dy to deal with the crisis, thanks to a wee­kend “mock disaster” exercise.

“We’ve al­rea­dy got the scene iso­la­ted,” said OPP Staff-Sgt. Marc Hem­me­rick. “Now we fi­gure out what to do.” Staff-Sgt. Hem­me­rick was ac­ting as the Haw­kes­bu­ry OPP’s In­ci­dent Com­man­der along­side his coun­ter­part, Pa­trick Mayer, of the Haw­kes­bu­ry Fire De­part­ment. The two of them, sur­roun­ded by more than a do­zen po­lice of­fi­cers, fi­re­figh­ters, and pa­ra­me­dics from the Pres­cott-Rus­sell Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, po­red over the de­tails of a huge map of down­town Haw­kes­bu­ry with a large red circle sho­wing the contain­ment area for a sus­pec­ted toxic che­mi­cal spill.

It was part of a Sun­day ta­ble­top “mock disaster” exercise for lo­cal emer­gen­cy ser­vices staff and of­fi­cials for the town, the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott and Rus­sell, and other pro­vin­cial and fe­de­ral agen­cies. Plans to hold the exercise be­gan ear­lier in the week, but the event as­su­med even grea­ter si­gni­fi­cance for eve­ryone in­vol­ved that day. It fol­lo­wed soon af­ter an ac­tual disaster not far away, where twin tor­na­does wrea­ked ha­voc in Dun­ro­bin, part of ru­ral Ot­ta­wa, and across the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver in Ga­ti­neau, Qué­bec.

Va­luable exercise

“The day was ve­ry be­ne­fi­cial,” said Fire Chief Ro­ger Cham­pagne. “We are now bet­ter pre­pa­red.”

Cham­pagne no­ted that when he got his Yel­low Alert war­ning by cell­phone, last Fri­day, about the tor­na­do si­tua­tion fur­ther west, his first thought was “we might have a true emer­gen­cy si­tua­tion ra­ther than a fic­ti­tious one.” He no­ted that the Sun­day exercise, which ran for se­ve­ral hours, has as­su­red him and other par­ti­ci­pants that all emer­gen­cy ser­vice groups, town and coun­ties of­fi­cials, and others are now cur­rent on pro­ce­dures and pro­to­cols for dea­ling with a disaster.

“The end re­sult was ve­ry po­si­tive,” he said. “Eve­ryone lear­ned a lot.”

“We are bet­ter pre­pa­red,” ad­ded OPP Ins­pec­tor Fran­kie Cam­pi­si. “We each know what our roles and res­pon­si­bi­li­ties are.”

Last year emer­gen­cy ser­vice groups and of­fi­cials for all eight Pres­cott-Rus­sell mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties ga­the­red in St-Isi­dore for a re­gion-wide mock disaster exercise. The sce­na­rio for that event was a “pan­de­mic si­tua­tion” where eve­ryone had to fol­low the pro­to­cols in­vol­ved in dea­ling with an unk­nown conta­gion.

Pro­vin­cial re­gu­la­tions re­quire all mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties and their emer­gen­cy ser­vice de­part­ments to do at least one “mock disaster” exercise eve­ry year. Da­niel Holmes, com­mu­ni­ty emer­gen­cy ma­na­ge­ment co­or­di­na­tor consul­tant for Haw­kes­bu­ry, ob­ser­ved that vir­tual disaster sce­na­rios can be “com­pli­ca­ted exer­cises” but they are in­va­luable in hel­ping as­sess lo­cal emer­gen­cy pre­pa­red­ness.

“I have a long list of dif­ferent sce­na­rios that I’ve done for va­rious mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties,” he said. “We’ve even once had a vir­tual prac­tice for a tor­na­do.”

The end re­sult was ve­ry po­si­tive. Eve­ryone lear­ned a lot.

—Ro­ger Cham­pagne

—pho­to Gregg Chamberlain

Pa­trick Mayer, du Ser­vice des de Haw­kes­bu­ry, sert de com­man­dant des opé­ra­tions lors de la si­mu­la­tion d’une ca­tas­trophe, à la ca­serne de Haw­kes­bu­ry. Il in­dique, sur une carte, la zone de la ville iso­lée en rai­son d’un dé­ver­se­ment toxique. Les membres du Ser­vice des in­cen­dies de Haw­kes­bu­ry, de la Po­lice pro­vin­ciale de l’On­ta­rio (PPO) et du ser­vice am­bu­lan­cier de Pres­cott-Rus­sell, ain­si que des re­pré­sen­tants de la Ville, des Com­tés unis de Pres­cott et Rus­sell et de di­vers autres or­ga­nismes ont pas­sé plu­sieurs heures, di­manche, à exa­mi­ner les pro­to­coles du plan d’ur­gence.

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