Here’s the back-story.
It’s the middle of July with hot and dry 30 C temperatures and it hasn’t rained in two weeks.
A large wildfire has broken out southwest of Prince George in the Beaverly area, there’s no way of fighting the fire, and it’s spreading quickly thanks to steady 30 km/h winds pushing the flames towards the city.
Well, what happened next was put in the hands of city and regional agencies during its mock wildfire emergency training session at the CN Centre today (May 17), also known as a ‘rehearsal of concept.’
“This is a good way for all of us to work together,” said City of Prince George spokesperson Mike Kellett. “How are we going to try to stop it? How many resources are we going to be deployed? When does the city’s emergency operations centre get activated? And that’s why we had two dozen agencies here.”
This table-top exercise looked like something out of a war movie.
A 900 sq. ft evacuation map of Prince George was placed in the middle of the arena floor with flags for agency positioning and little toy trucks on it to indicate where firefighters were based to fight the flames, along with an Incident Command centre allowing organizations to understand how they could work together.
.@CityofPG hosting a training table-top exercise this AM; the scenario... a wildfire is active southwest of Prince George & every branch of emergency resource is working together to combat the flames | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/BUJBAO6p7f— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) May 17, 2019
The issues included road closures, evacuation routes, and evacuating livestock.
Adam Davey with Prince George Fire Rescue Emergency Programs said 80 people were able to collectively work together and get on the same page by using the large visual-aid.
“We were able to talk about what would happen if this scenario grew, what would a planned evacuation look like, how would we work together, and how would we make sure the public is safe. We’re able to walk through on a big map instead of discussing it around a whiteboard; this is as close to real time as you can get.”
Among the participating teams included:
- City of Prince George/Prince George Fire Rescue
- Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG)
- Prince George RCMP
- Northern Health Authority
- Emergency Management B.C.
- B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- B.C. Wildfire Service
- School District 57 (SD57)
- Canadian Red Cross
- B.C. Ambulance
- Beaverly Volunteer Fire Department
“The biggest thing in an emergency is communication and coordination,” Davey added. “I think what happens is that all these agencies are like silohs of excellence. What we’re saying now in an emergency event, we need to have those horizontal linkages so we can work together to benefit the community. That’s the overarching thing. Emergency response is simple things in really challenging conditions. That’s why we’re doing this.”
“I can not stress the importance of this exercise and I really want to thank everyone,” said Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall to the agencies during a break in the session. “It’s not just a few organizations, it’s not just our staff, it’s all of you that are going to be able to help out our residents escape what could come their way and we want to make sure they’re safe.”
This was the third emergency training session for a wildfire scenario the city has put on; the first drill on Apr. 2 only involved city staff and the other on May 2 included the other agencies.
B.C. Wildfire Service came up with the scenario ahead of time.