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Mock disaster prepares regional emergency services for mass evacuation

People fleeing the BC wildfires were at the Tara Centre on Wednesday but it was only a drill. The Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership held a mock disaster to practice in case of a mass evacuation to the area.

County Community Services Director Dan Lemieux says this exercise is to practice what would happen in the event of another emergency like Fort McMurray.

“Our scenario is that there was a large fire that happened in British Columbia. British Columbia asked the province of Alberta to support them by hosting evacuees. At the current time in this exercise, we’re preparing to host about 250 evacuees from British Columbia.”

GPREP is made up of the city, county, Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Wembley, and Hythe, as well as partners like Alberta Health Services and the RCMP. The group usually does one larger simulation each year with smaller exercises throughout the year.

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Previous scenarios have centred around how to deal with a fire or a flood but this time around, City Community Social Development Manager Angela Sutherland says its all about figuring out how to deal with the people.

“This particular simulation is focused primarily on the emergency social services so that is where we have to take care of the people… This has happened in the past where something like this has happened in B.C. and we have been asked to support the emergency that has happened in another province and how we can support the people.”

Sutherland also says it’s important to keep practicing these disasters so that they know how to respond in the event of a real emergency.

“They’re vital to keep us active and engaged in practicing when something really actually happens. We’re fortunate that these types of things don’t happen all the time which is actually a good thing but in reality, we need to be ready when things happen.”

Around 80 people came out to participate in the event. For people who were not there, Lemieux recommends everyone have enough supplies like food and water stored for 72 hours in the event of an emergency.

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