This was one of the largest major maritime incident exercises in Canadian history. More than 30 agencies, 1,000 first responders and around 100 volunteers playing the part of injured ferry passengers came together to practice what emergency responders would do if there were a fire on a large ferry filled with people.
The scenario took place in Trincomali Channel between Salt Spring and Galiano islands. Ninety-seven people were forced to abandon ship when an onboard car-deck fire threatened to sink the BC Ferries vessel Coastal Renaissance and spill fuel into the water. Dozens of vessels and six aircraft were employed for the exercise.
In addition to BCEHS, participants included the Canadian Coast Guard; Canadian Armed Forces; Emergency Management BC; Health Emergency Management BC; BC Ferries; Public Safety Canada; Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue; Salt Spring Island and Galiano Island Emergency Management; local search and rescue, fire and police; local indigenous communities; and many more.
Thirty-eight BCEHS staff including paramedics, dispatchers and managers were on site at the Fernwood Dock on Salt Spring Island practising their multi-casualty incident management plan. Rod Salem, BCEHS director of emergency management, noted, “Exercise Salish Sea was 15 months of planning with not only the Coast Guard, but with a huge list of federal, provincial and local partners. To see it all unfold made the planning efforts worthwhile.”
As part of this training event, Health Emergency Management BC’s Island Health team conducted three simultaneous mass casualty exercises at Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria General Hospital and Saanich Peninsula Hospital. Each hospital opened their emergency operations centres as well as a South Island-wide emergency operations centre to manage capacity and treatment issues.
The focus for the second day of the exercise shifted from patient care to pollution and environmental response.
Thank you to all staff who took part in this important training event.
Photo credit: Canadian Coast Guard