Area disaster simulation

Disaster simulations train your emergency response

2016-04-10 18:00 Niels Jensen

Many years ago in the early eigthies, when I was employed as a process control engineer in Sarnia (a city in south-eastern Ontario, Canada), and were working out of a temporary barracks in the Chemical Valley I and most of my colleagues were declared dead during that years Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation. That years disaster simulation involved the release of hydrogen bromide from a facility located a few kilometers south of our offices. Hydrogen Bromide is a heavy gas, which spread along the ground in the prevailing wind direction. The prevailing wind direction at the time for the simulation was from the south. The spread was simulated by having a man walk from the release site towards the north along the main road Vidal St S. When the alarm sounded shortly after lunch we started putting tape around all the windows in our temporary office building. However, the exercise official declared us dead because they judged the floor of the building not to be air tight. If we had decided to leave the building and drive north, then we would have saved our lives. However, when the alarm sounded we did not know 1) what caused the alarm, 2) where the event was taking place, and hence the chosen action: shelter-in-place.

Learnings from a disaster simulation

What did we learn from this exercise? We learned, that also office building at or close to plants need to be equipped with emergency phones, and not just rely on the alarm horns of the plants, which correctly informed us to shelter-in-place. Our shelter was just not good enough.

This kind of exercise is not cheap to arrange. It involve emergency responders from several plants in the area, police activation of traffic control to and form the industrial area, and hence significant loss of work hours at all the involved plants. However, it was judged that this cost was reasonable compared to the potential loss of a real disaster. One of the real benefits were improved collaboration among emergency responders from different plants, police and municipal authorities.

Sarnia Area Disaster Simulattions - SADS

These Sarnia Area Disasters Simulations continue to this day. The picture next to this note are from is from the 2014 simulation. Today the public is informed about an upcoming exercise through the local media, and signs are posted that around the community during the exercise. This is one of the results of an exercise involving a school bus being pierced by an iron bar on the side of the main local highway. That event resulted in the police being unable to place phone calls due to incoming phone calls from concerned parents. The following years exercise involved a tank fire due to a lighting strike. The community actually experienced just that during a thunderstorm in the summer of 1996.

2014 Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation

To maximize the benefits of such area wide disaster simulations the objectives of the exercise and the learning goals must be clear. Otherwise, the whole thing is just a waste of time and money.

2017 SADS

Facilities at the Shell dock along the St. Clair River, next to the St. Clair Parkway, are shown in this file photo. The Shell manufacturing centre near Corunna was hosting this year's Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization annual disaster simulation exercise Monday, as well as a spill simulation Tuesday at the Shell dock. The parkway, between Beckwith Street and LaSalle Line was set to be closed to traffic Monday, October 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

2015 SADS

Nova Chemicals Corunna site will be host for emergency simulation Monday, August 24, 2015 from 10 a.m. to noon. Some 100 emergency responders and observers are to take part in this year's annual Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation. The public would see increased activity at the plant site, including the arrival of emergency vehicles, and might hear alarms sounding, during the exercise. Participants and observers are expected from the municipality, as well as CVECO that administers the mutual aid system.

2013 SADS

Imperial Oil was the site of this year's Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation. Each year organizers pick a different scenario to help first responders train for possible emergencies. Picture it: A polyethylene unit explodes at Imperial Oil, sparking a fire and later a vapour release. How do fire, police and industry work together to not only ensure public safety, but also protect themselves?

2012 SADS

The Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization recently had its annual Sarnia Area Disaster Simulation in Corunna. The event brought together fire, ambulance and OPP police responders from Lambton County as well as industrial responders from Imperial Oil Limited, NOVA Chemicals, Suncor Energy Products Inc. and Shell Canada. Here, responders rescue a student.

2010 SADS

­ A crew of firefighters from Nova Chemical hook up hoses to a pump truck during the annual simulated disaster response exercise. This year first responders joined fire crews from Chemical Valley companies to fight a fictional fire at the Lanxess dump on Imperial Avenue. The crews formed a long line of trucks to pump water and foam to the site