Earlier this week, Ron Jenkins, a leader with the Toronto Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team received an emergency call that hundreds of people were trapped in the rubble of the former Laurentian High School building on Baseline Road after it collapsed from a strong aftershock.
The building was serving as an evacuation centre from a major Ottawa earthquake.
That was the scenario as more than 100 emergency responders from Ottawa’s Urban Search and Rescue Unit, Toronto’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Unit (Canada Task Force-3) and the provincial emergency response team came together for the mock disaster exercise taking place this week in Ottawa.
Crews from around the province spent the week combing through rubble brought into the old school building to create realistic disaster conditions.
A planning manager for Canada Task Force-3, Doug Silver the said the mock disaster is intended to verify the training that search and rescue teams undergo year round.
“The concrete is real. We use rescue mannequins made out of rope, because they are the toughest ones we can find and we bury them under the concrete,” he said. “All the hazards are the same you’d see at a real incident.”
In a real-life disaster, Ottawa’s USAR team would be the first responders to the scene followed by the activation of Canada Task Force-3 and PERT.
Silver said the team would come equipped with doctors, dogs and full supplies to be entirely self-sustaining.