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Mock disaster scenario held at Good Spirit Lake

Exercise based on conceivable disaster scenario.

GOOD SPIRIT LAKE – Over the weekend of September 16-18, a Multi Jurisdictional Search Exercise was held at Good Spirt Lake and Provincial Park with a command post stationed at Good Spirt Bible Camp.

"We do this annually, but this is the first provincial training exercise since COVID," said Dustin Brears, Vice President of Parkland Search and Rescue.

Brears said that search and rescue teams from across the province attended the exercise.

"With responders and volunteers we're at about 125 people," said Brears, adding, "we've got the entire RCMP search and rescue team here, we have EMS, local fire, Sask Public Safety—a whole bunch of emergency organizers."

Brears said the exercise was based on a conceivable disaster scenario.

"What we're doing is we're grouping them all together—we've given them a tornado scenario and they need to manage through that scenario and ultimately find some missing people throughout the day and hopefully rescue them successfully," said Brears.

Both seasoned veterans and people new to search and rescue had involvement in the training exercise.

"Those seasoned veterans—what we try to do is not put them in key roles so that the up and comers can learn at this exercise—if they make mistakes here that's ok," said Brears.

"The seasoned veterans can go in the field and walk through the bush and stuff that they normally probably don't do because they're typically in a command role," said Brears, adding, "we're going to stick the green people in the command role and let them run with it," and, "if they mess up, that's good, because that's how you learn and this a controlled environment."

Brears discussed details of the mock disaster scenario.

"The tornado went through the golf course, through the provincial park, across the lake and wiped out Burgis Beach—the path of destruction," said Brears.

"In that area—fire, search and rescue and RCMP, and all the other organizations—need to manage the immediate casualties that they find and then later in the day there's going to be people that are reported missing...that's where the search will begin and they start going out in a structured way and looking for these individuals."

"A tornado in this area is a very real possibility, so it brings attention to the first responders who may be arriving at a scene like that in this local area," said Brears, adding, "it lets them know the terrain, it lets them know the local community and it gives them an idea of what they're walking into."

"What we need to do is work with local EMS resources and fire resources and get teams out in the field—we need to survey the extent of the damage in the debris field, start looking for those in need and be aware of those that are going to be coming in during the day," said Devin King, Co-search Manager of the exercise.

King, who is part of the Saskatoon Search and Rescuse and the Battlefords Search and Rescue teams, said, "I've been involved in [SARSAV] since 2008, in that time I've trained up through basic searcher, team leader and now search manager."
"We've got the command post from Sask Public Safety, we've got coms, we have a triage area," said Brears, adding, "everybody here is a volunteer—some organizations are paid—but ultimately those people volunteer to be on their search and rescue team."

"Our SARSAV (Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers) teams are totally volunteer based—so these people are here on their own time, mostly on their own dime—and they're here for a great training opportunity to further assist the province if someone goes missing," said Brears.

Brears said that the exercises like this give much needed attention to the volunteers based organizations.

"It definitely brings attention to search and rescue because we do rely on fundraising—we're donation based as well—we don't get regular funding for anything we do, so it brings attention to the cause," said Brears.

"In addition to this exercise today we did a whole bunch of education sessions, classrom stuff yesterday and all day tomorrow," said Brears, adding, "they get to learn in the classroom and they get to put their skills to the test in the field."

The weekend wasn't limited to learning about disaster scenarios.

"Tonight we'll debrief—tomorrow we've got bear safety presentations, and critical incident stress management and radio efficiency—to sharpen those skills if they do need," said Brears.

For more information on opportunities with Parkland Search and Rescue visit their website.