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Wednesday, 12 September 2012 10:05

Swift Current emergency exercise fine-tunes disaster response

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EMS responders and firefighters attend to injured passengers at a simulated two-plane collision site during an emergency response exercise at Swift Current Airport on Sept. 6, EMS responders and firefighters attend to injured passengers at a simulated two-plane collision site during an emergency response exercise at Swift Current Airport on Sept. 6, Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

The emergency vehicles arrived with blaring sirens and in a cloud of dust at the Swift Current Airport in response to a call about a two-plane collision.

 

A scene of carnage greeted them next to the main runway, where some people were sitting in dazed confusion next to the wreckage while the crumpled bodies of others were visible in the dry grass.

Fortunately this was only a mock scenario that was enacted at the airport on Sept. 6 to evaluate inter-agency communication and incident command systems. The exercise helped the City to comply with requirements for testing its emergency plan and accreditation requirements from the Cypress Health Region.

City Fire Chief Denis Pilon said they were satisfied with the outcomes of the exercise.

“There was some minor things that went wrong and we have some issues with our incident command system that we need to correct, but a lot of that has to do with training and experience,” he mentioned. “So overall we thought it went very well.”

Three members of the North Battleford and Saskatoon fire departments attended the exercise  to do the evaluation. Pilon said their feedback was very valuable. It highlighted some difficulties with the way the incident command system was set up and with the use of terminology in the command post.

“The intent of incident command is to use common terminology and that didn't really happen,” he explained. “Police, fire and ambulance all use different terminology in their day-to-day at work and you have to abandon that when you're working together. So some of the terminology wasn't really what we had expected.”

The City of Swift Current Fire Department, R.M. of Swift Current Fire Department, RCMP City and rural detachments and Swift Current EMS were the key responders during the exercise. Other participants included airport staff, STARS Air Ambulance staff and members of the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

The scenario for the two-plane collision included three fatalities and 12 injuries. The simulated casualties were transported to the Cypress Regional Hospital to evaluate staff response to such a situation.

“The hospital was able to exercise their code orange, which is mass casualty response,” he said.

According to Pilon they are required to exercise their plans on a regular basis, although the time frequency is not specified.

“Typically what we would like to do is a paper exercise one year, do a table top exercise and then a full-scale exercise the third year,” he said. “In the case of the airport they're required by law to do it every four years.”

Three days after the exercise, the City and R.M. fire departments, RCMP and ambulance service responded to an emergency landing by a small plane on a grid road east of Swift Current. The 72-year-old pilot suffered minor injuries and was transported to hospital.

“Actually our response seemed to follow things the way they should have,” Pilon said about the incident. “Doing the exercise was good training for us.”

 

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Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer