Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

HOW THEY WOULD COPE – John Coyne of the Department of Health and Social Services explains Wednesday how potential evacuees from an emergency would be handled at the Canada Games Centre.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CGC would be used as evacuation facility

As part of Operation Nanook-Tatigiit 2019, a mock emergency reception centre was set up in the Canada Games Centre’s Flexihall this week.

By Gord Fortin on June 6, 2019

As part of Operation Nanook-Tatigiit 2019, a mock emergency reception centre was set up in the Canada Games Centre’s Flexihall this week.

The Department of Health and Social Services put together the centre as part of the exercise.

John Coyne, with Health and Social Services’ planning and risk management unit, gave the media a tour of the reception centre on Wednesday afternoon.

Nanook happens every year in one of the three territories or Labrador. It was last in Whitehorse three years ago, and was also here during the summer of 2013.

The exercise is designed to expand and improve emergency response capacity, which is the Yukon government’s focus.

The Canadian Forces are participating in what is partly an Arctic sovereignty exercise.

In the event of an emergency, Health and Social Services provides help to those that are affected, including evacuees, people visiting the Yukon and response personnel.

The mock reception centre was a scaled-down environment of what a typical one would be.

Evacuees would be brought to the centre and registered – helping re-unify families – with the department providing them with initial primary social services.

The services for evacuees would include lodging and food. People would also have access to incidental items like diapers, Coyne explained.

These are the items that people may not have had time to pack or bring large quantities of prior to fleeing the emergency.

Many secondary services would be available, such as access to medical care.

People would be able to get their prescriptions filled, and have childcare support, recreational opportunities and psycho social supports.

“From the time people first evacuate, we are looking to support them towards their recovery,” Coyne said.

The department is able to help people with their pets. People may also need help with accommodation, as not every hotel admits pets, or they may need food.

“All these services put together provide for a harmonious response,” Coyne said.

The assistance is available in English, French, sign language, German and others.

Coyne said he had access to the government’s larger database to help with this. There is a phone line for people to call to help with translation.

He called the centre an open and inclusive environment. The aim is to be able to accommodate a diverse group of people.

“Health and Social Services are here for the people,” Coyne said. “That is our primary focus.”

The centre starts with a reception and registration area.

There is a sample of the recreation area. An area was set aside for psychological/social supports.

Several cots were set up for the lodging area. Coyne recommends that people bring ear plugs to help them sleep.

A 17-bed urgent care centre can provide triage and medical care.

This specific scenario was designed to accommodate up to 1,000 people and a similar number of animals.

Coyne said his best advice to people is to have a plan for an evacuation – and practise it.

Everyone in Canada is encouraged to have a 72-hour preparedness kit.

This should be equipped with items that would sustain everyone living in a particular household, including children and pets, for 72 hours.

Coyne pointed out that emergencies and evacuations can happen suddenly. Communities can get very little notice when evacuations happen. The department is trying to create a home or community environment in the centre, he stressed.

In a real evacuation scenario, the centre effectively becomes a home – a safe space.

Media representatives and government officials not involved in the response are not allowed in the reception centre during a real event.

Approximately 80 people were trained during this week’s exercise.

Up to 26 staff members were on site Wednesday. Coyne described the team as excellent and well-trained.

Comments (1)

Up 2 Down 0

Miles Canyon on Jun 7, 2019 at 8:15 pm

The staff could stay in and be paid to help in an emergency.

How about the convention centre?

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