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Exercise, exercise, exercise

On Friday the 13th, parts of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia looked like a scene straight out of the popular TV show CSI. Despite the gory makeup and a script that read like a horror movie, the reality was a lot less sinister.

 Emergency responders wearing every type of uniform you can imagine, including fire, EHS, police, military, coast guard, departments from all levels of government, Salvation Army and the Canadian Red Cross, took part in a large training exercise titled Scotian Pearl.

 The scenario for the mock disaster may seem a bit far-fetched: a collision involving a truck, a pedestrian and a bus, followed by a chemical spill, a fire, a bomb threat and an evacuation, but emergency responders need to be prepared for any situation. Actors along with a few dummies were “rescued” from this disaster. Some were even carried on stretchers, through the decontamination tent and treated for various injuries. As a spectator, the experience seemed quite real, as if it was happening in slow motion.

 The exercise took months of planning and allowed participants to test emergency plans and procedures, coordinate their activities and most importantly work together without the pressure of dealing with a real-life disaster.

 Dozens of Red Cross volunteers trained in disaster management were actively involved. Some were on the scene to direct participants, others were back at the Red Cross office to manage an emergency response centre, and others played the role of casualties, with physical injuries and psychological trauma.

 Only a week later, a few of these Red Cross volunteers found out they are being deployed to assist with the Red Cross response to the Alberta wildfires, putting lessons learned during this mock disaster to good use and making sure this real life response runs smoothly.

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