File photo by ADVOCATE staff From the left Christine and Hubert Gordipy and Jennifer Goodman and her son Quinn, walk through the damage surrounding Vista Village on 39 Street in Red Deer as a windstorm blows through Red Deer in June.

Blizzard, wind and ice storm scenario puts Red Deer’s emergency response to the test

If the City of Red Deer’s recent emergency plan test seems familiar, that’s because the scenario they used drew from weather events that hit the area.

Combining this summer’s windstorm with the blizzard conditions in November and December 2014 and an ice storm, the city put its plan to the test Wednesday.

Karen Mann, the city’s emergency management co-ordinator, said they try to use a scenario that could feasibly occur in Red Deer. This year’s exercise was called Operation Tempest.

“It was a large blizzard, ice storm and wind event that resulted in power outages, disruptions to transportation corridors, the closure of the QEII, snow on the roads, people getting stuck, high winds, and lots and lots of ice,” said Mann. “We worked through that as an organization with our teams and determined how to respond.”

Similar to this summer’s windstorm, power was knocked out in parts of the city. However, the added element of the cold led to the creation of a mock warming centre, that was run by the emergency social services team.

Every year the city tests its emergency plan with an emergency response exercise. After the exercise, there is an assessment of what worked, and what didn’t, and what changes need to be made.

On the whole, Mann said the exercise went well.

“In Red Deer, we don’t have a lot of emergency events, and we don’t get a lot of real life opportunities to practice,” said Mann. “We need to make sure we don’t get rusty, and make sure people work through these roles that are different from them in their day-to-day jobs.”

The event tests the city’s emergency management programs such as the Emergency Operations Centre, the Emergency Social Services and an Emergency Communications plan. Mann said they’re all in place

“They all need to work together in the event of an emergency to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Mann.

Over the next two weeks, the teams will meet and go over what worked well, and where they can improve.

“It’s an opportunity to improve our systems and processes,” said Mann.

In other years, the scenarios have been train derailments, policing incidents, and fires.

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