ADVOCATE, N.S. – A forest fire was raging north of Advocate for several days last week.
On Saturday, the wind shifted driving smoke into the village making the air hazardous to breathe and forcing the evacuation of residents at the Chignecto Manor seniors care facility.
“As the fire was progressing and the smoke was getting worse the decision was made to evacuate,” said Mike Johnson, Emergency Management Office (EMO) officer for the Municipality of Cumberland County.
The mock disaster exercise at the Chignecto Manor on Saturday put personnel and their response times to the test while they were being observed.
“This wasn’t a hot start. It was more of a soft start because we knew it was going to happen,” said Johnson. “It was something that was done on our time because it wasn’t like there was a fire on the doorstep and people had to get out right away.”
A bus from the Cumberland County Transportation Services Society was dispatched from Amherst to transport ten manor residents to Parrsboro during the mock disaster.
Observers on site look to see where improvements can be made.
“The whole idea behind an exercise is to identify where the problems are. A failure during an exercise is a success because we learn from it,” said Johnson. “If we don’t have any failures at all we don’t have anything to learn from. A few failures are what we are looking for.”
A mock disaster evacuation with seniors is different than with other people.
“There are 10 seniors on the bus, so meals, water, and bathroom breaks need to be taken into account. Knowing the timing of everything is important,” said Johnson.
There are approximately 20 senior care facilities in Cumberland County, and all of them have to be tested every three years by the EMO office to make sure they are abiding by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness licensing standards.
“We make sure all the procedures and policies they have are followed and the people required to fulfill the policy are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do,” said Johnson. “We make sure everybody who is trained to a certain level does what they’re trained to do.”