No one ever wants to have to deploy an emergency response plan. The reality is when disaster strikes, every second counts. The Alberta Provincial Government has had to put their emergency service and business continuity plan into action, having to deal with the Fort McMurray wildfires. The quick deployment provided a safe and orderly evacuation. It is evident that the Alberta government was prepared; “Based on lessons learned that we have learned from Slave Lake and from High River, we have teams with an immense amount of experience in doing this,” says Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management. The Alberta government had preset defined plans, agreements, as well as memorandums of understandings that allowed the execution of the emergency response to act immediately with a focus on three key elements:
Phase 1. Safety of People
Phase 2. Stabling and Preserving Infrastructure
Phase 3. Re-entry of Residents and Businesses
Some evacuees are questioning whether local and provincial authorities could have done a better job of coordinating evacuation efforts. Fort McMurray residents said they were only given seconds to leave their homes. Others described panicked police officers and emergency service personnel who sometimes didn’t seem to be steering evacuees in the right direction, away from the fire. Even with a complete and well-defined emergency response plan, when the disaster strikes – every second counts to get perspective on what needs to be done in order to put the plan into play.
The Alberta government has had support as a result of their many agreements and memorandum of understanding. Many companies are working to ensure preventative and proactive measures are immediately launched and deployed including; transportation companies, oil and gas industry, military, federal and provincial governments, energy and infrastructure, Red Cross, first responders and emergency support groups as well as real-time voluntary support.
While the government is dealing with the Fort McMurray’s current landscape, they are also assisting residents with resource centres, insurance and financial assistance, and healthcare services. Edmonton and Calgary have also provided support and offered education assistance for displaced students.
The Fort McMurray Wildfire is a heroic testimonial to the success of an emergency response plan. The 911 response and action, managed to evacuate residents and save the city core infrastructure.