SALT SPRING ISLAND, BC, Oct. 26, 2017 /CNW/ - Ensuring Canada is prepared to respond to a major incident in our waters is an integral part of keeping Canadians safe and protecting our marine environment and coastal communities.
The Gulf Islands were the site of a simulated ferry evacuation yesterday, with the Joint Task Force (Pacific) (JTFP) of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) coordinating search and rescue operations in a large-scale, on-water exercise. The exercise is jointly managed by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard with coordination through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) involving both air coordination by the CAF and marine rescue coordination by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Following the ferry evacuation, command was handed to the Canadian Coast Guard for environmental response operations. It was all part of day one of Exercise Salish Sea 2017 – a multi-agency maritime disaster training exercise happening on Oct. 25 and 26th.
As part of the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada committed to having a better coordinated federal emergency response, by conducting regular response exercises with communities, stakeholders and Indigenous communities to ensure response readiness. The Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Armed Forces are leading the marine and air response to Exercise Salish Sea 2017, designed to help agencies and responders inter-operate in a simulated real-time environment. The scenario tested how agencies would work together in a large-scale marine emergency ranging from a mass casualty evacuation to the environmental response that follows such an incident.
Partners participating in Exercise Salish Sea include: Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian Coast Guard, BC Ferries, BC Emergency Health Services, Emergency Management BC, BC Ministry of Environment, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue and Public Safety Canada, among a great many others. Coastal First Nations including Nisga'a, Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Nuxalk, Heiltsuk, Haisla, and Gitga'at observed the exercise to assist in developing localized search and rescue programs.
"Thanks to our Government's $1.5-billion investment in the Oceans Protection Plan, Canada will be better informed, better prepared and better equipped to respond in the event of marine emergencies and pollution incidents. Training scenarios like Exercise Salish Sea 2017 help us test and demonstrate our enhanced capacity, and I'm proud that the exercice was a tremendous success."
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
"As Commander of Joint Task Force (Pacific) I recognize the importance of maintaining a high state of Search and Rescue readiness for British Columbia's busy territorial waters. Exercise Salish Sea 17 affords JTF(P) the unique opportunity to train in a realistic scenario alongside our federal and provincial partners and community stakeholders."
Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander, Joint Task Force (Pacific), Canadian Armed Forces
"Exercise Salish Sea is an excellent opportunity for BC Ferries to practice our emergency response skills, processes and procedures. Safety is our first priority and we were pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this major maritime response exercise."
Captain Jamie Marshall, BC Ferries' Vice President of Fleet Operations
"Testing response plans is a critical part of disaster readiness, and initiatives like Exercise Salish Sea are important opportunities to drive safety improvements. The insight we gain from exercising our emergency plans, particularly at this scale, is invaluable and goes a long way towards our collective emergency preparedness."
Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Minister Responsible for Emergency Preparedness, Government of British Columbia
"This multi-agency disaster response exercise is an important opportunity for all the participating agencies. This exercise enables BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) paramedics, call-takers and dispatchers to work with our emergency response partners and test out processes to enhance collaboration so that in a real-life disaster situation we will be prepared to safely care for as many people as possible."
Barb Fitzsimmons, Chief Operating Officer, BC Emergency Health Services
"Careful preparation and practice ensure first responders are ready to spring into action when emergencies arise. These exercises build and strengthen the working relationships that are essential to effectively coordinate with partners to quickly and effectively deploy federal resources to support Canadians when disaster strikes."
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- This two day exercise involves approximately 500 people from more than 20 government and non-governmental organizations – including local Indigenous peoples from several Coastal First Nations.
- Canadian Coast Guard personnel joined this exercise from both Central & Atlantic Canada, while personnel from both the United States Coast Guard and the Korean Coast Guard also attended.
- A total of 15 vessels and four aircraft were employed.
- The Canadian Coast Guard regularly holds search and rescue and marine pollution response training sessions for interested Indigenous and coastal communities.
- The Government of Canada's $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is designed to create a world-leading marine safety system.
Note: Photographs and video of the Exercise are available on request
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SOURCE Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region
For further information: Michelle Imbeau, Communications Advisor, Canadian Coast Guard Communications, Western Region, 604-666-2872, [email protected]