Today marks the end of Exercise Coastal Response, the Government of British Columbia’s $1.2-million full-scale earthquake and tsunami response exercise to test the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan.
This exercise evaluated the in-scenario actions of public safety agencies and all levels of government, co-ordination among responders, health and medical agencies, and promoted interagency co-operation of both internal and external agencies that support emergency response.
The overarching goal of Exercise Coastal Response was to enhance provincial emergency response capabilities to a catastrophic earthquake. Six functional areas were exercised: Operations, Mass Care, Medical, Strategic Communications and Public Information, Telecommunications, and Logistics. This was accomplished through the co-ordinated actions of several emergency organizations to resolve problems related to a catastrophic earthquake.
The exercise also has been an opportunity to test the select functions of the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan. These are the functions that support immediate life safety. This is a first step in the use of the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan to better prepare British Columbia in the event of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.
Early reports indicate the testing of these functions of the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan was a success. Collaboration among the various agencies was effective, and the interoperability with emergency response partners well practiced. Most importantly, and fulfilling the intent of the exercise, lessons were learned in a collaborative training environment before a catastrophic emergency occurs.
Exercise evaluators have already noted areas of work that require refinement, such as a need for more robust operational communications, increased interagency co-ordination and integrated partnerships in all phases of emergency management, as well as increased joint training and exercises with all partner agencies to work toward continuous improvement.
The architects of the scenario and the lead evaluator will review the full complement of the exercise, including how agencies approached the scenario and the tasks that would be demanded of them in a real earthquake, to provide invaluable perspective and learning opportunities for the continued development of the Province’s emergency preparedness and emergency management functions, as well as refinements to the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan.
This exercise scenario’s regional impacts involved:
- Strong shaking in areas of Greater Vancouver, Greater Victoria and South Vancouver Island.
- Some destruction in the major urban centres of the lower mainland and southern Vancouver Island, but not to catastrophic levels (5% damage).
- Highway 4 completely blocked out to the coast.
- Limited ship deployment to southern Vancouver Island ports.
- Extensive communication and power failures across southwest B.C.
- A tsunami that impacted the west coast of Vancouver Island.
- For the first eight to 10 hours of the exercise, information was presented to participants of all affected communities in southern B.C.
- The greatest impact was in Port Alberni.
This exercise scenario’s local impacts involved Port Alberni and the West Coast Communities:
- Extensive blockage of roads, bridges and airports.
- Extensive local damage and facility destruction.
- Significant utility breakages.
- Multiple power outages affecting hospitals and care facilities.
- Widespread, community and residential devastation.
- A significant number of casualties and displaced persons, beyond the ability of local and regional facilities to manage.
- Road, port and infrastructure in the Port Alberni area were severely impacted – including a worst-case tsunami-caused inundation of the Port Alberni area.
- Tsunami effects in other coastal communities such as Bamfield, Ucluelet and Tofino.
- The scenario’s earthquake and tsunami created a true catastrophic disaster event in the Port Alberni area that required an immediate response of federal and provincial assets.
This exercise scenario’s national impacts involved:
- Catastrophic damage along the west coast of British Columbia and neighbouring Washington State, such that would prevent significant assistance coming from any of B.C.’s partners in the United States.
- Climatic conditions in Western Canada that did not impede delivery of Canadian relief support from east of the Rockies.
- Damage in the Lower Mainland that would not impede delivery of Canadian relief support from east of the Rockies.
Exercise Coastal Response is the culmination of the work of over 60 organizations and over 800 participants including 260 volunteers. Activities took place in 20 unique locations in six communities (Port Alberni, Bamfield, Ucluelet, Tofino, Victoria, Surrey).
The B.C. government has a number of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and partnerships in place to support response and recovery efforts during disasters with other provinces, U.S. states and the Government of Canada – including a West Coast Tsunami Warning document. The Province thanks the federal government for its assistance in the delivery of Exercise Coastal Response.
From June 7-10, 2016, Exercise Coastal Response, British Columbia’s first full-scale earthquake and tsunami response exercise brought together stakeholders from all levels of government, as well as Emergency Management BC staff, First Nations, Crown Corporations, critical infrastructure owners and non-government organizations involved in provincial-level response to model how they would collaboratively work to respond to the impacts of a catastrophic event along coastal B.C. It tested the procedures set out in the BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan and promoted interagency co-operation among internal and external agencies that support emergency response.
During the same timeframe, neighbouring states and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 10 were conducting an exercise called Cascadia Rising 2016. As well, Canadian federal departments involved in earthquake response were conducting Exercise Pacific Quake and Exercise Staunch Maple.
Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto -
“The Province is very pleased with the work of Emergency Management BC in planning and delivering Exercise Coastal Response. It has allowed us to put theory into practice, to work alongside our partners and identify the opportunities to better our emergency response mechanisms. The sobering outcomes of a large-scale disaster illustrate why we, as a government, are investing so much into Exercise Coastal Response and into emergency preparedness as a whole to help protect the communities of B.C. and each and every British Columbian.”
Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale –
“Emergency preparedness is the responsibility of all Canadians, but it is critical that our federal and provincial governments continually work to better predict, prepare for, and respond to emergencies and natural disasters. That is why we are committed to working together with all provinces to refine systems of information sharing, co-operation and consultation so that we may identify new opportunities to protect Canadians from coast to coast.”
Exercise Coastal Response: https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/exercise-coastal-response-2016 (ow.ly)
BC Earthquake Immediate Response Plan: http://ow.ly/4nrclv
Basic emergency kit supplies: http://ow.ly/4nrcp3
Household preparedness and neighbourhood preparedness guides: http://ow.ly/4nrcso
Prepare Your Pets Guide: http://ow.ly/4nrcwG
Emergency Info BC, B.C.’s official channel for emergency alerts: http://ow.ly/WCDbj
A backgrounder follows.