Residents in and around Bragg Creek had emergency responders knocking on their doors last Thursday, in a mock evacuation exercise that may have brought back memories of the real thing during the 2013 flood.
The scenario imagined for the mock evacuation drill was a hypothetical forest fire in Kananaskis, spreading toward Bragg Creek. Responders were deployed to knock on people’s doors and provide information on what they should do in the event of a real evacuation.
Pamphlets also outlined what to include in an evacuation kit, what to expect in terms of future communications and alerts, and how to ensure residents were registered with Rocky View County’s Safe and Sound service.
Redwood Meadows Emergency Services Deputy Chief Michael Norman said people in his community were very receptive to the initiative.
“It’s been positive. There were some flood mitigation questions,” he said.
In a real evacuation, Norman said emergency responders' priority is to identify who is leaving and who is not. They cannot force people to leave, but those who refuse to leave are putting both themselves and others in danger.
“Life and safety are first. We’ll be the last ones out. But those who refuse are putting everybody else at risk,” he said.
Redwood Meadows resident Tani Collie was one of the many residents who spoke to Norman’s crew after they arrived at her doorstep.
“I did not know they were coming. I’m very appreciate of the exercise,” she said.
She said she didn’t have any flashbacks to the stressful events of 2013, when the dike separating the Elbow River from the community came perilously close to breaching.
“I’m not a person to panic,” she said.
The Redwood Meadows Emergency Services crew was interrupted from their door-to-door duties by a real call-out in their community. However, it turned out to be a non-urgent medical call.
RVC Fire Chief Randy Smith said the province has mandated exercises like this every three or four years.
“This reflects the planning we’ve been doing over the last five years,” he said.
He encouraged people to get registered on the County's Safe and Sound website.
“The question I get asked is, ‘How are you going to let us know?’ If there was a fire and we had to evacuate, if you’re signed up with Safe and Sound, you’d get an alert,” he said.
Rocky View County residents can go to rockyview.ca/safe to sign up. The website also describes what should be included in an evacuation kit, along with other useful tips for emergencies.
Incident commander and RVC Deputy Fire Chief Ken Hubbard stressed the importance of learning from Thursday's simulation.
“We look at any past challenges our plans may have had. The Bragg Creek area is unique. It’s a nice little hamlet nestled in the back country and it may be one of the first areas that needs to be evacuated,” he said.
He said planners learn how to deploy personnel to choke points in communities like Bragg Creek, which has only one major point of access.
Residents also had the opportunity Thursday to think about planning when it comes to special challenges, like getting animals out, as well as what living arrangements they would have to make in the event of an emergency.
Responders from RVC, Tsuut’ina Nation and the Canadian Red Cross, along with support from fire and search and rescue personnel from Cochrane, Redwood Meadows, Crossfield, Mountain View County, and Wheatland County all took part in the coordinated event.
Emergency management personnel from the RCMP, Canada Task Force 2, the Salvation Army, Team Rubicon, also provided support.
An evacuation centre was set up at the Springbank Park for All Seasons by the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and the Animal Rescue Emergency Task Force.