News Local

Pembroke prepares to host an emergency

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

The City of Pembroke is getting ready to host an emergency.

By the end of May, the municipality will be running its annual emergency exercise, held each year to comply with the Emergency Management Act.

Recently, Colleen Sauriol, the community emergency management co-ordinator, approached the emergency management program committee for dates to run the exercise. The committee narrowed it down to either May 26 or May 27, 2015, depending on the availability of the room at the new OPP office at 77 International Drive which serves as the emergency operations centre.

"We typically have this in May," Sauriol said, explaining it will run throughout the morning, and wrap up in the early afternoon.

The city holds the annual exercise as a way of keeping prepared, and acts as if a real disaster is occurring, in order to practice its emergency plan.

The exercise can range from a tabletop one where the activity never leaves the office, to a full blown one complete with the use of emergency services personnel and equipment, and volunteers acting as victims.

These activities give city staff the chance to run through the emergency plan, both as useful practice and to see if there are difficulties arising from its use. This includes running through the emergency contact list, arranging for the opening of emergency shelters to hold any evacuees, and co-ordinating emergency response from the police, fire, ambulance and public works officials.

Provincial officials are also on hand to evaluate how the city conducts itself, and offers suggestions on how to improve the city's response.

Sauriol said last year's exercise was different, as it dealt with working out the recovery in the aftermath of a massive propane explosion. The exercise had planners gathered with the Community Control Group to create two plans - one for a one week recovery, and the other for six months following the incident.

She said this year it will be back to basics, dealing with an emergency as it happens, as the emergency management centre set up will be new to them all. In addition, there are several new people on the emergency management committee who will be taking part.

"We're all on a steep learning curve," she said, "so working through a table top exercise will be good practice for them."

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

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