Firefighters get ready to remove a victim from the vehicle during the exercise at Glacier View Secondary. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Earthquake drill offers safety lesson for Comox Valley Schools

Exercise at Glacier View includes smoke and pyrotechnics to add element of realism

A chaotic scene of smoke, explosions, broken glass and bodies lying on the ground unfolded the morning of Feb. 14 at Glacier View Secondary in Courtenay.

All of this was the result of an earthquake, though not a real one. School district staff, a few drama students and emergency responders combined their efforts to stage a run-through of an emergency exercise on Friday morning. The aim was to give school district staff a better handle on how to respond to an emergency.

In this case, the scenario was an earthquake during which a car lost control and struck a hydro pole, which downed power lines. The drama students played the victims on the scene and were decked out in makeup to add to the realism, as did smoke and pyrotechnics.

The scenario had school district staff responding to the scene to conduct triage before handing over duties to the arriving firefighters. This offered them a chance to practise putting out fires with an extinguisher or attending to the injured until the fire crew could extract people from the vehicle and prepare them for the transport.

Isfeld student Celie Lacasse, who played one of the victims, said, “I was in a passenger seat and I was thrown out of the car.”

As a result her character was suffering lacerations and a concussion.

“Basically, I’m not able to move my legs or my arms. I can talk though,” she said.

While the student has been acting for years, this was the first time she had the chance to take part in an emergency exercise, and she was pretty excited.

“I’ve been doing acting for nine years but never anything like this,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

The people on the scene ran through different situations, ending with the extrication of a couple of people from a vehicle on its side. They then gathered in the gymnasium to debrief about the lessons from the morning.

RELATED STORY: Vancouver Island earthquake should serve as a wake-up call

Russell Roy, the school district’s manager of health and safety, brought his background in these kinds of exercises to the event and oversaw the scenario as it unfolded. The importance to the school district, he said, lies in the fact that in emergencies such as earthquake, most often the first people who can help in a situation are those nearby, so the aim is to give them more skills on how to assess a scene and provide assistance before emergency responders arrive.

“What we’re trying to do is just promote emergency preparedness,” he said. “What’s going to happen in an actual disaster situation is that 80 per cent of rescue is actually going to be done by convergent volunteers, by people who are just arriving on scene [that] don’t particularly have any training.”

Roy says he hopes to get to all the schools and conduct the same kind of training. The earthquake theme, he adds, represents a worst-case scenario and offers lots of opportunities to learn safety measures and basic steps, such as knowing how to shut off utilities, all with the aim of give people in the school district the background for such situations.

“We’re raising awareness about personal preparedness,” he said. “We’re raising awareness about preparedness in the school and the activities that need to follow post-disaster.”

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Isfeld student Celie Lacasse lies on the ground, playing the part of accident victim for the emergency exercise. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Smoke and pyrotechnics were used to add an element of realism to the exercise. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Russell Roy (left), the school district’s manager of health and services, snaps a picture during the exercise. Photo by Mike Chouinard

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