Simulated marine disaster helps participants prepare
for major multi-agency rescues
It is 5:30 a.m. and the Chief Engineer tries to fix the engine problem, to no avail. The Captain advises Marine Communications and Traffic Services, Sydney, of the problem and his message is relayed to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax. There are 216 passengers, 69 crew, 19 tractor trailers and 62 cars on board. Suddenly, the ship rolls and four people are seriously injured. What happens next?
That is what the participants of the latest Major Marine Disaster table-top workshop in Sydney, N.S. had to decide. When is the right time to call in rescue resources? What resources should be called in? Who should be contacted? Who should take the lead in this incident?
Organized by the Canadian Coast Guard and funded by the New Search and Rescue Initiatives Fund, the exercise included participants from the Canadian Forces, Navy Public Affairs and the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Halifax, the Canadian Coast Guard, (including Marine Communications and Traffic Services, Sydney) Marine Atlantic Shipping Line, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Emergency Health Services and the local hospital.
Using the Search Mission Management System, participants logged their actions and decisions based on the scene unfolding in front of them. The group worked together and learned important information about each other's abilities, resources and responsibilities.
When the day ended, all participants said the exercise had been extremely helpful - not only to learn about the role of other agencies in such an incident, but also to meet the people with whom they may one day be working.
Exercises such as this help organizations to prepare for potential major
rescue scenarios involving many groups. They are complex operations relying
on well-established inter-agency
CCG becomes Special Operating Agency
"The Government made the Canadian Coast Guard a Special Operating Agency as part of its ongoing priority to ensure high quality, efficient and effective service to the public," said the Honourable Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in making the announcement.
"It also acknowledges the importance and unique status of the Canadian Coast Guard within the federal family."
Though still technically housed under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, this new status is intended to give the CCG more management and financial flexibility.
"The new Special Operating Agency status gives the Canadian Coast Guard the opportunity to focus its resources on what it does best - providing top-notch marine services throughout Canada," said Minister Regan.
"The change will also position the CCG to respond to its enhanced role under Canada's national security agenda, while improving traditional services through continuous renewal."
Three of six new vessels to be stationed on west
"The Coast Guard plays a vital role in the lives of British Columbians," said David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry and co-senior Minister for B.C. in a news release. "I'm extremely pleased to see the federal budget has recognized this fact and allocated significant new funds to upgrade the fleet on the Pacific Coast."
A science research trawler and two mid-shore fisheries patrol vessels will be based on the West Coast, while a science trawler and patrol vessel will be based in Dartmouth, N.S., and the final one, a patrol vessel, will be based in Quebec City.
In addition to the $276 M for the six new vessels, the CCG is receiving funding for four new mid-shore patrol vessels that will be used for security on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. These vessels will also be armed for the first time as they will have RCMP officers on board.
These patrol boats' primary responsibility will be security - on-board RCMP officers will have full law-enforcement powers - but they will also help with search and rescue operations.
This funding is part of the $222 M allocated to federal security agencies to increase security on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River system.
Drownings database helps organizations save lives
WIRA collects data involving all incidents that occur in Canada in, on, or near water (including Canadian waters up to 200 miles off-shore). The focus is on gathering information about unintentional, but significant, injuries that require medical attention beyond first aid by bystanders or front-line/on-site employees. These injuries include fatalities such as drownings, major injuries requiring hospitalization, and minor injuries that require doctor or dentist follow-up or activation of emergency medical services such as 9-1-1, ambulance, fire, police, hospital emergency room or clinic follow-up.
Currently there is a publicly available database that lists events by gender, age and location. However, a fully detailed break-down of each event is available for a small fee. WIRA uses the money to maintain and expand their database.
WIRA's goal is a systematic, comprehensive, up to date national database
of water-based deaths.