Lessons learned from emergencies
Okotoks: 130 attend conference on security in town
Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018 06:00 am
Whether big or small, communities of all sizes can learn from Edmonton’s experience after an attack outside Commonwealth Stadium, police from the city said at a conference in Okotoks last week.
It was the perfect storm when a police officer was allegedly rammed by a vehicle and stabbed outside an Edmonton Eskimos game on Sept. 30, 2017, said Staff Sgt. Troy Carriere, with the Edmonton Police disaster emergency operations and planning section.
He said Edmonton police had planned and prepared for the potential of a terror attack in the city.
“For us, our plans held steadfast when we did have the attack,” said Carriere.
Carriere and fellow Edmonton police Sgt. Dan Collins were speakers at a conference on emergency management for special events hosted by the Town of Okotoks Jan. 17. One hundred and thirty people from across the province including emergency services workers, such as police and fire departments, Alberta Health Services representatives, emergency dispatch personnel, municipal leaders and event planners from across the province attended.
Carriere and Collins shared how Edmonton police responded to the September attack.
Everything started around 8:15 p.m. when a vehicle struck a police constable and the driver allegedly stabbed him before fleeing the scene. Around midnight, a U-Haul truck fled a checkpoint and drove into the downtown area where four people were hit. The truck flipped onto its side and the driver was arrested at the scene.
Carriere said the police service had a strong commander on the scene at the stadium. He said the first instinct of the officers on the scene was to help the response.
Collins said they had to focus on maintaining security in the stadium and the street outside.
“We still had 30,000 people in the stands we had to look after,” said Collins.
He said it was the commander’s job to maintain security in the stadium and manage all the various factors going on at the scene simultaneously.
In the weeks after, he said it was important to debrief. After the attack they met with other partners to review the response, starting at the highest levels within the City administration and moving on through civic events teams.
The key lessons were the importance of planning, partnerships and being flexible. Carriere said those lessons are applicable to any community of any size and for any type of emergency, not just acts of terrorism.
“Terrorism is obviously a big thing,” he said. “It’s the flavour of the day and it is important to plan and have a plan in place for an act of violence or some kind, but the same time you have to make sure you have a reasonable response to it. That comes back to good planning ahead of time.”
Satyamoorthy Kabilan, Conference Board of Canada director of national security and strategic foresight, said adaptability and partnerships are critical to plan for emergencies.
“It’s understanding that we can’t go it alone and we’re going to need partnerships in the broader sense, other first responders, other government, private sector, volunteers, you name it. We should be looking at how we leverage all of those when we have to deal with a major emergency.”
Scott Roberts, Okotoks protective services director, said the Town is well prepared for emergencies and to protect large community events. However, the Town always needs to be learning and improving its plans and procedures and this was a chance to learn from larger centres and police forces, he said.
“We hope it never happens, but we always consider that it might,” said Roberts. “When we plan an event like the parade, we put in place contingencies and response plans that allow us to be agile enough to respond if that event happens.”
He said the conference was a good opportunity for Okotoks personnel to build relationships with people in other municipalities and share ideas.
“The best takeaway from this is that we develop a networking, kind of, consortium where we share ideas, we share concepts, we share best practices so that nobody’s going it alone,” said Roberts.
Okotoks fire chief Ken Thevenot brought the event to Okotoks. He originally expected between 20-25 people to attend, but said interest quickly grew among other communities and emergency responders.
“I reached out to a couple of colleagues and it just morphed out to 130 people,” he said.
He said it’s important for emergency personnel to share ideas and help each other learn from other’s experiences.
“With the new reality, we have stepped up our game in Okotoks in the last three years with respect to emergency planning,” he said. “I wanted to share that. I also wanted to see if maybe we’re missing something… There’s always some lesson to learn.”