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West coast readies for emergency response practice

From June 7 -10, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) will join multiple partners in the first ever provincially led, full-scale earthquake response exercise, Exercise Coastal Response.
Earthquake damage
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​The exercise will test elements of the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan and bring together key stakeholder groups to practice elements of the plan in order to enhance operational coordination.

In this exercise scenario, there is a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of southwestern B.C. This results in strong shaking lasting several minutes in parts of Greater Vancouver, Greater Victoria and central Vancouver Island, causing some destruction in the major urban centres and widespread damage in the Port Alberni valley. The earthquake would also generate a tsunami on the west coast of Vancouver Island minutes after the initial shock.

Approximately 50 BCEHS employees are involved in this exercise both on the ground in Port Alberni and at the Vancouver Island District Operations Centre (DOC) in Parksville and at the dispatch centre in Langford which will serve as the BCEHS Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) for the simulation. 

In Port Alberni, paramedics will triage and transport about 50 volunteer patients under various circumstances that could occur following an earthquake as well as work with responders from partner agencies to ensure the safety of the public and each other.

“This is the biggest simulation we have ever been a part of,” said Rod Salem, BCEHS Director of Emergency Management.  “We’ll have the opportunity to activate our revised incident command structure, confirm planning readiness for mass casualties, and support deployment of a Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team.”  

At the Vancouver Island DOC, the BCEHS PEOC and ground zero in Port Alberni BCEHS staff will be testing contingency plans, business continuity procedures and Patient Care Communications and Planning processes under different conditions that could occur as a result of an earthquake or tsunami.

“How would we continue to respond to 9-1-1 calls, dispatch crews and communicate with hospitals if cell service was unavailable and the Internet went down on the west coast of Vancouver Island?” Salem asked.  “We’ll be testing the contingencies we have in place to ensure we can carry out our core business and communicate with staff in a disaster situation. Contingency communication methods will include satellite and amateur radio technologies.”

Exercise Coastal Response coincides with Cascadia Rising, a large-scale drill organized by the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that will simulate the effects of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and an accompanying west coast tsunami dozens of feet tall.

For more information on Exercise Coastal Response, please review the information sheet: Exercise Coastal Response 2016: Southwestern British Columbia: Full-scale Earthquake and Tsunami Response Exercise​.  

BCEHS; Emergency Preparedness; emergency response
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