Red Cross simulating disaster in Sidney

The Canadian Red Cross Health Emergency Response Unit (ERU) training has been brought to B.C.

Members of the Canadian Red Cross set up tents in the parking lot of the Mary Winspear Centre this week for the emergency measures simulation taking place there.

The Canadian Red Cross Health Emergency Response Unit (ERU) training has been brought to B.C. for the first time and it’s been set up in Sidney.

“Sidney and the Mary Winspear Centre seemed to be ideal place to set this up,” explained Director of Emergencies and Recovery for the Red Cross, Hossam Elsharkawi.

“It’s near an airport and has the appropriate facilities, so it made sense.”

The Red Cross ERU is a standardized package of both trained personnel and modules of equipment that are ready to be deployed within 24 – 48 hours to areas hit by a catastrophic disaster. It was set up through the week behind the Winspear Centre and simulations will run until the end of day today (Friday), said Elsharkawi.

“We have a core team here of doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators, social workers and more,” he explained.

“There are 40 people here participating in the training, 10 of which have traveled here from other countries like Colombia and Mexico to participate in this.”

The simulation is held annually, usually near the Toronto Pearson Internation Airport, and serves to give hands on disaster training to members of the Red Cross.

“It’s the first time we’ve left Ontario,” said Elsharkawi, adding that the reason for coming to B.C. stems from a new agreement between the B.C. government and the Red Cross.

The province of B.C. and the Red Cross formalized a partnership in 2012 — the first of its kind in Canada — to help ensure timely and effective deployment of national or international ERUs as temporary resources to assist B.C. in times of a catastrophic disaster.

“The aim of the simulation is to increase the level of preparedness. With this type of work there’s really no substitute for the hands on training,” he said.

The simulation centred around a massive earthquake scenario.

“Mass casualties are simulated, as well as issues with electricity and power, infrastructure engineering and so on,” Elsharkawi said.

The memorandum of agreement the Red Cross has with the province is unique, Elsharkawi said.

“Other provinces are definitely watching closely.”