By Andru McCracken
What happens if a disaster strikes in McBride? What is the plan to get people to safety and minimize harm? How do you move hospital patients and school children and where do they go? How do you deal with people who might be cut off?
The Village of McBride is applying for a grant to develop just such a plan.
“We were thrilled when we learned UBCM added grant opportunities for evacuation planning,” said McBride’s Chief Administrative Officer Sheilagh McCutcheon. Council made a motion to apply for the grant at their last meeting. It’s been on McCutcheon’s list for some time.
“We’ve just taken advantage of that to make sure we have a wholistic emergency plan for the community.”
McCutcheon said a recent exercise with McBride’s first responders demonstrated the need for a good flexible plan.
“Every emergency situation has its own characteristics and issues,” she said.
McCutcheon said that a corresponding overall emergency plan is in the works.
“The evacuation plan is just one component,” she said.
The Village of McBride was one of a number of agencies recently participated in a emergency exercise that would have required evacuating the entire community. Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Hruby said McBride’s first responders ran through a train derailment scenario.
“The simulation was that two propane cars derailed,” said Hruby.
The simulated derailment required a 2km wide evacuation, meaning the entire village was unsafe and people needed to get out.
Hruby said they found that an evacuation of that extent would be challenging.
He said it’s likely both crossings in McBride would be blocked leaving a number of people trapped, and residents of Eddy Road would be stranded.
Hruby said they would have to evacuate the elementary school, the hospital, the high school, Beaverview Lodge and the low income housing complex as well.
“It’s quite complicated,” he said.
Hruby said that CN offered resources to help them be ready in the event of a derailment.
“There was a really good presentation about what CN can do,” he said. “Next year midsummer they will actually bring cars.”
Hruby said it would offer local firefighters hands on experience with a derailment.
The emergency planning exercise was conceived by McBride RCMP, but we were unable to get a comment from them by press time.