Lower Mainland hazmat exercise includes US Homeland Security

Managing communications during a large-scale incident was the primary focus for the tabletop exercise hosted by DFES.
Managing communications during a large-scale incident was the primary focus for the tabletop exercise hosted by DFES.

Managing communication challenges during a major fuel fire was the focus of discussions during a hazardous goods exercise hosted by Delta Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) in November. The tabletop exercise, in which fire, police and ambulance representatives and other agencies participated, was based on an explosion caused by a multi-vehicle accident on Highway 91 in Delta. This marked the first time agencies from the United States joined the multi-agency scenario to evaluate call response and enhance emergency communication procedures for a large-scale incident.

“All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”

Dan Copeland,
Delta Fire & Emergency Services Chief

The session focused on creating situational awareness and coordinating centralized messaging and advanced response throughout the different stages of the scenario, from initial calls coming through about the event to response and coordination. Key considerations included the establishment of unified command, protocols enacted for each agency, as well as identifying additional stakeholders to be notified of the incident as the situation unfolded. Cross-border coordination played a significant role in the exercise as representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Department of Homeland Security were on hand to provide additional recommendations for enhancing emergency preparedness and response.

“The interaction and networking of the group was great to observe and be a part of,” commented DFES Chief Dan Copeland. “All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”

E-Comm’s Director of Fire Services Dave Mitchell, co-developed the exercise scenario with DFES and facilitated the session. He echoed the Chief’s comments. “Their participation allowed us to identify additional groups that should be notified to assist with resource deployment during a crisis of this kind. We look forward to their continued participation in future exercises and the possibility of on-site visits to share our experiences.”

Along with taking a leadership role in the design of the exercise, members of E-Comm’s Operations team also attended to advise on call volume management for 9-1-1, along with fire and police call-taking and dispatch. Additional topics of interest included the use of mass-calling protocols, technology interoperability challenges, use of unified platforms for mass notification of emergency services and social media for public messages.

Participants included more than 30 individuals representing 14 agencies from the Delta Police Department, DFES, BC Emergency Health Services, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, RCMP, Ministry of Transportation, Emergency Management BC, Coastal Wildfire Branch, Transport Canada, the Corporation of Delta, Surrey Fire Service and Metro Vancouver.