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Ontario's Efforts to Improve Emergency Response

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Efforts to Improve Emergency Response

Ministry of the Solicitor General

Since the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in June 2012, Ontario has taken a number of actions to enhance its capability to respond to large-scale emergencies and structural collapses. 

Operation Border Cities Response Exercise

The exercise simulates the aftermath of an earthquake in Windsor. Its scenario calls for a fictitious building collapse with hundreds of people missing and presumed trapped in the collapsed structure. The three-day operation, lasting from Feb. 24-26, will test provincial capabilities to support municipalities, fire services and other first responders dealing with an emergency.

Approximately 100 people are taking part in the exercise, either directly at the site of the simulated collapse or in emergency operations centres in Windsor and Toronto.

Organizations taking part in Operation Border Cities Response:

  • Toronto's Heavy Urban Search And Rescue (HUSAR) team 
  • OPP Urban Search and Rescue, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Response Team (UCRT)
  • The City of Windsor (including the municipal Emergency Operations Centre)
  • Windsor Fire and Rescue Services
  • Windsor Police Service
  • Essex-Windsor Emergency Medical Services 
  • Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (coordinating the exercise) including the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre

Heavy Urban Search And Rescue (HUSAR)

The Toronto HUSAR team members are multi-skilled professionals from first responder and other organizations in Toronto including Fire, EMS, Police, Public Works and include Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre trauma doctors.

HUSAR team members locate trapped people in collapsed structures and other entrapments using specially trained dogs and electronic search equipment. To locate and safely remove victims, they breach walls, roofs and floors, shore up and stabilize areas of a collapsed building, lift and remove structural components, use heavy equipment to remove debris, and provide emergency medical treatment and transfer victims.

The Toronto HUSAR team offers 24/7 operational readiness to deploy on short notice in response to incidents in Ontario.

Improving emergency response

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) have taken significant steps to identify lessons learned and improve emergency response in Ontario.

Key initiatives include:

  • Meeting with internal and external stakeholders on the review of the Incident Management System doctrine that guides emergency managers when multiple agencies are involved in the response, 
  • Planning the development of local incident support teams under the existing mutual aid system. These teams would be made up of experienced incident commanders and would be available to assist municipalities dealing with significant incidents.
  • Enhanced and mandatory training for Community Emergency Management Co-ordinators and Municipal Emergency Control Groups.
  • Expanding courses offered through the Ontario Fire College and other Regional Training Centres, including Emergency Operations Centre Management and Incident Site Management.
  • Supporting municipalities in providing emergency information to their residents via social media and websites, and deploying liaison officers to strengthen communications.

In addition, the OPP has expanded the availability and training of Major Critical Incident Commanders and Critical Incident Commanders. Approximately 20 members have been trained and strategically deployed throughout Ontario since December of 2012. They receive mandatory annual training, which includes working with OPP Urban Search and Rescue, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive Response Team (UCRT) personnel.

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