At 1:36 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, 2019, a massive 8.0 magnitude fictional earthquake rocked the fictional Republic of Kalasy.
Macadamia Island, which sits off the coast of the made-up country, was especially hard hit by the disaster, and the Canadian government has sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to assess the damage and report back to the government so it can decide how it can best help in the contry’s recovery efforts.
This, of course, is the reason that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been in in the Campbell River area for the past two weeks. They are running a simulation that prepares DART teams for future disaster events in support of Global Affairs Canada. The exercise is called Ready Renaissance.
Last week, the mayor of “Carrol River,” played by Strathcona Regional District Protective Services Coordinator Shawn Koopman, met with assessment team trainees. The script he was provided gave him the basics of what the fictitious situation was in “Carrol River” and its neighbouring communities six days after the earthquake, and he filled the team in after some frantic hugs and expressing gratitude that they were finally there.
“I’m so happy that the Canadians are here,” he says, hugging the assessment team members as they walk in the room. “We have to get City Hall back up and running.”
In the scenario, about one quarter of Carrol River’s population is out on the streets because their homes are uninhabitable and displaced residents from neighbouring communities are flooding into the community, placing additional strain on medical services and other infrastructure. Roads are blocked making food and water distribution difficult, and the mayor is in somewhat a state of panic.
Oh, and there’s a major dam just up the river that, should it fail, would be catastrophic for a large, low-lying area of the city.
Carrol River, of course, is played by the city of Campbell River in the scenario, which according to Major Gabriel Rousseau of the First Canadian Division of the Canadian Forces, takes place each year and is integral to the team’s training. Although Canada would only send a DART team “under extreme circumstances,” Rousseau says, they must always be ready should they be called upon.
“The annual exercise provides a simulated disaster that allows the personnel involved to test their procedures and improve their coordination,” Rousseau says. “By doing the same steps they would do in a real situation, they try to predict what would work and what wouldn’t and maintaining a level of precision required by this type of intervention. One the most important parts of the exercise is the lessons learned made by the participants at the end of the exercise and that will be used to maintain their contingency plan. Although it is a simulation, this exercise provides a sustainable experience for those that would need to execute this military deployment for real.”
Rousseau says while Ready Renaissance is the team’s major training opportunity each year, planning for next year’s exercise – including its location – won’t begin until the outcomes and debriefing can happen from the current one once they return to Kingston, Ont., at the end of the month.