Sidney Fire Department hazmat specialist Kevin MacKenzie was selected to take part in a defence exercise. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Peninsula hazmat techs take part in military-grade emergency simulation

Sidney Fire Department included in multi-agency emergency response exercise

Sidney firefighter Kevin MacKenzie has had a busy week, being involved in a multi-agency chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence emergency response simulation involving fire, police and military.

MacKenzie is a specially trained hazardous materials (hazmat) technician and is a member of the Capital Regional District’s hazmat team, which is comprised 26 fire departments and covers everywhere between Sidney and Port Renfrew, as well as the Gulf Islands. Typically each fire and police department are allocated a number of positions on the team, based on their size and scope. Each member receives specialist training so that in the event of an emergency, their organization is represented when the specially trained hazmat personnel attend an incident.

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On Tuesday, Feb. 26 a major hazardous incident was simulated at Ogden Point. Fire and police sources report the Victoria Police Department attended, and then the simulated incident escalated through different levels until RCMP explosives technicians and the military were deployed. Many of these exercises involve “terrorist-style” elements, although the nature of this week’s exercise has not been disclosed. A simulation of hazardous chemicals being released did form part of the exercise.

“I’ve only been on the team this past year, so it’s the first CBRN-related exercise I’ve been involved with,” said MacKenzie, who was under instructions not to divulge the exact nature of the exercise.

Central Saanich Fire Department is responsible for storing and maintaining the CRD’s hazmat equipment, as well as providing training, overseen by Fire Chief Chris Vrabel.

Vrabel said, “We were very pleased for the opportunity to work with provincial and federal agencies. We were able to see their approaches and equipment, and to see how our procedures and systems were compatible.”

Much of the exercise involved a lot of time spent assessing threats and developing effective plans to counter them. MacKenzie, who has received the maximum amount of hazmat training, was present in an operational capacity for the first two days of the exercise.

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“It was interesting. A lot of waiting and getting information, knowing the properties of the chemicals involved and how they react to the environment and with clothing.”

Vrabel was pleased with the experience, “It was a great opportunity for us to take part as a joint team with regional, provincial and federal agencies in approaching how to mitigate hazardous chemical incidents.”

The three-day exercise was described as an “ever-evolving event” that “simulated needing additional resources.”



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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