Emergency exercise helps communities 'get their head in the game' during crazy weather

Communities across New Brunswick will start to prepare for sizzling heat waves followed by torrential rains and heavy winds from a tropical storm.

It's all part of Exercise Brunswick Charlie, a province-wide emergency simulation that's being organized by the province's Emergency Measures Organization.

"Experience is a great teacher," said Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick EMO.

The province will plan for the emergency exercise with help from the Canadian Armed Forces.

The exercise is set to take place in June.

Exercise based on severe weather

This year's exercise will revolve around severe weather unfolding across the province, starting with a severe heat wave culminating with a tropical storm.

MacCallum uses the example of post-tropical storm Arthur, a major storm that whipped through the province in July, 2014. The storm uprooted thousands of trees and caused power outages across the province that lasted for weeks.

Michael Stuart/CBC

"That was unfamiliar to a lot of communities," he said.

Municipalities, local service districts and First Nations communities are also invited to take part in the planning process. 

"An exercise of this magnitude requires a pretty long horizon of planning," he said.

Daniel McHardie/CBC

Although severe weather is the focus of this year's scenario, MacCallum said communities can also decide what kind of emergency they would like to prepare for, such as a fire response, lost person or evacuation.

"It'll be a very thoroughly prepared exercise to challenge all our communities and agencies that are playing."

How the exercise will play out

The exercise is part of a one-day effort to give communities across the province a chance to practice how they respond to a particular emergency.

"Train the way you expect to have to fight," he said.

Shane Fowler/CBC

Three days leading up to the exercise, MacCallum said communities will receive weather updates online through simulated media and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

This will allow communities and first responders to "get their head in the game."

"The communities start to receive injects of information to get them in a place where, on the day, it is the culminating point of the weather event," he said. 

The day of the emergency, communities will receive information, impacts and simulated incidents in their jurisdictions. Then, they'll have to decide what needs should be addressed first.  

Practice makes perfect

This is the third time the province has organized an exercise like this. The previous exercises involved the first day of a hurricane and impacts after a hurricane has passed through. 

"I always look for something that's relevant to our community."

MacCallum said the exercise will allow first responders in communities to assess themselves.

"That really steers people toward saying, 'OK, what do we need to do here in terms of remedial or additional training?"