Search and Rescue Association of Alberta (SARAB) Cochrane

‘We are in a world where natural disasters are becoming more frequent, so having a flexible team that can respond to any type of emergency is important, so that you have that response capacity in the province’

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Search and Rescue Alberta and the City of Cochrane are preparing for another intense wildfire season in the province as they participate in simulated emergency exercises.

Alberta Search and Rescue President Brian Carriere said this is the province’s first disaster response exercise, with approximately 200 volunteers practicing wildfire evacuation and other emergency situations over the course of three days, which concluded on Saturday.

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While the encompassing scenario was a wildfire, the exercises included a simulated mass casualty incident, an evacuation, and a water rescue scenario that included a rope rescue.

“From evacuation notification to technical rescue skills for people who would have been simulated lost or injured during the fire evacuation process,” Carriere said.

SARA volunteers train with their local teams for search and rescue missions and have specialized training in disaster and emergency response.

“We believe in being prepared for operations all the time, so this would have been done or planned regardless of the wildfires because we want to be prepared for responses to all hazards. “We have been preparing for this exercise for two years, conducting prior training and preparing a new training program.”

Carriere said SARA has a much larger role in both helping local communities and coming together to help communities collectively.

“We are going to analyze the team’s performance; “We will work on our operating procedures and then use them to develop more training so we can improve even more in the future.”

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Alberta’s 2024 budget includes an additional $141 million over the course of the next three years to address wildfires in the province. Forests and Parks Minister Todd Loewen said an additional $55 million will go toward operating expenses.

“We are in a world where natural disasters are becoming more frequent, so having a flexible team that can respond to any type of emergency is important, to have that response capacity in the province,” Carriere said.

‘Every minute they are learning something new’

“We have learned lessons from the moment we started planning. We’re learning how to set up teams, we’re learning how to communicate more effectively, we’re trying out different communications equipment, we’re trying out different reporting styles and we’ve combined teams from across the province for the first time and I mixed up the teams so people learned a few things. other; Every minute they learn something new.”

Carriere said the skills gained in the exercises can be applied to any large-scale emergency: “So obviously fire is a priority right now, given the season, but it could be large avalanches, it could be large transportation incidents, or “It could just be a major power outage that would force people to evacuate. We can be used, and have been in the past, for those types of situations.”

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“With more people than ever on the field, there is more chance of an instance occurring and more need for assistance, and that’s why we are training the teams and preparing them for this,” Carriere said.

“And then, of course, as disasters become more and more frequent, we expect to see more and more deployments.”

Jay Judin, director of emergency management for the city of Cochrane, said he wants to ensure the municipality is well prepared to respond to any type of emergency or disaster that could affect its citizens.

“Our emergency coordination center is staffed by city employees and, of course, most of our City of Cochrane employees live in Cochrane. Therefore, if a disaster of this nature were to impact Cochrane, it would have a dramatic impact on our ability to respond.”

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