Residents of Bragg Creek and the surrounding area saw emergency responders knocking on their door last Thursday during a mock evacuation drill that may have brought back memories of the real thing during the 2013 flood.
The imagined scenario for the mock evacuation exercise was a hypothetical wildfire in Kananaskis, spreading towards Bragg Creek. Responders were deployed to knock on people’s doors and provide information on what they should do in the event of an actual evacuation.
Brochures also described 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 the Safe and Sound department of the Rocky View County.
Redwood Meadows Deputy Chief of Emergency Services Michael Norman said people in his community were very receptive to the initiative.
“It was positive. There were questions about flood mitigation,” he said.
During an actual evacuation, Norman said the priority for emergency responders is to identify who is leaving and who is not leaving. They cannot force people to leave, but those who refuse to leave put themselves and others in danger.
“Life and safety come first. We will be the last to leave. But those who refuse put everyone at risk,” he said.
Redwood Meadows resident Tani Collie was one of many residents who spoke to Norman’s crew after they arrived on his doorstep.
“I didn’t know they were coming. I really enjoy the exercise,” she said.
She said she had no flashbacks to the stressful events of 2013, when the levee separating the Elbow River from the community was dangerously close to breaking.
“I’m not one to panic,” she said.
The Redwood Meadows emergency services team was interrupted in their door-to-door duties by a real call in their community. However, it turned out to be a non-emergency medical call.
RVC Fire Chief Randy Smith said the province has mandated drills like this every three or four years.
“It reflects the planning we have done over the past five years,” he said.
He encouraged people to register 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 are registered with Safe and Sound you will receive an alert,” he said.
Rocky View County residents can go to rockyview.ca/safe to register. The website also describes what should be included in an evacuation kit, as well as other useful tips in case of an emergency.
RVC Operations Commander and Deputy Fire Chief Ken Hubbard stressed the importance of learning from Thursday’s simulation.
“We are looking at any past challenges our plans may have had. The Bragg Creek area is unique. It’s a pretty little hamlet tucked away in the hinterland and may be one of the first areas to evacuate,” he said.
He said planners are learning to deploy personnel to choke points in communities like Bragg Creek, which has only one main access point.
Residents also had a chance Thursday to think about planning for special challenges, like getting animals outside, as well as the living arrangements they would need to make in the event of an emergency.
Responders from RVC, the 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 participate in the coordinated event.
Emergency management personnel from the RCMP, Canadian Task Force 2, the Salvation Army and Team Rubicon also provided support.
An evacuation center has been set up at Springbank Park for all seasons by the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and the Animal Rescue Emergency Task Force.