UBC's Okanagan campus will simulate emergency on May 4

If you see emergency vehicles heading to UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna on Tuesday, May 4, don't worry. It's a simulated emergency exercise designed to help on-campus and regional emergency responders test their plans, and get to know each other a little better.

The simulation exercise will begin at about 8 a.m. and should be completed by noon.

"This will be the first full-scale emergency exercise for the Okanagan campus," says Shelley Kayfish, manager of Health, Safety and Environment. "The objective is to test and improve the effectiveness of our university emergency response plans and procedures -- and bring together first responder agencies and other external agencies with the university departments they would be working with during a real emergency situation."

While the university hasn't announced what the simulated emergency will be on May 4, Kayfish says a variety of simulated site emergencies are possible, such as hazardous material spills, fires, airplane crashes or structural collapses. The exercises are developed, arranged and administered by Health Safety and Environment in close collaboration with various university departments and external agencies.

"Emergency preparedness and planning is a responsibility we all share and this is a great opportunity to work with an expanding institution in our community" says Jason Brolund, Kelowna Assistant Fire Chief and Deputy Coordinator of the Regional Emergency Program. "Better preparedness and planning benefits everyone and makes the job of emergency responders easier in the time of crisis."

Multiple local emergency services will be participating in the May 4 exercise. Observers may include the Kelowna Fire Department, RCMP, B.C. Ambulance Service, School District 23, Kelowna International Airport, UBC's Vancouver campus, WorkSafeBC, Okanagan College and the City of Kelowna.

"We want people to know that we're practicing for the real thing, but we don't want anyone to worry on that day," says Kayfish. "Our expectation is that those who are not participating in the exercise will see very little or no disruption next Tuesday morning."

Jackie Podger, AVP Administration and Finance, says all levels of staff and administration at UBC are committed to providing the tools and resources needed to put an emergency response plan into place.

"Emergency preparedness is vital at every level of the community," says Podger. "UBC is committed to ensuring a healthy, happy, safe community, and part of that is identifying potential emergencies and the most efficient way to respond to them."

The simulated emergency exercise is being held during Emergency Preparedness Week (EP Week, this year May 2 to 8), a national annual event coordinated by Public Safety Canada, in close collaboration with the provinces and territories and partners. Activities are organized across Canada to raise awareness of the importance of having an emergency kit, making an emergency plan, and identifying risks in the region.

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