Saanich firefighters Arlin Baillie and Dan McLaughlin in CRD Hazmat (Level A) suits with hidden air tanks prepare to enter the ammonia room at Saanichs Pearkes Arena during a mock-emergency drill in Saanich on Oct. 17. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Saanich firefighters Arlin Baillie and Dan McLaughlin in CRD Hazmat (Level A) suits with hidden air tanks prepare to enter the ammonia room at Saanichs Pearkes Arena during a mock-emergency drill in Saanich on Oct. 17. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Watch: Saanich responds to mock emergency for ammonia Leak

Hazmat suits, emergency centre respond to mock ammonia leak

Luckily, it was only a drill.

If Wednesday morning’s mock emergency operation in Saanich was real, more than 500 people would have been evacuated from within a 500-metre radius of Pearkes Rec. Centre. The drill started around 9 a.m. when a fictional truck collided into the side of Pearkes Arena, creating an ammonia leak. The amount of ammonia that the drill suggested could have easily been fatal for those in the immediate vicinity.

“The truck ruptured the ammonia chilling equipment that makes the ice,” Deputy Chief Dan Wood explained.

Saanich fire, police, CRD Hazmat and Pearkes staff mustered in the Saanich mobile command unit in the Pearkes parking lot while 45 members of Saanich staff, fire and police all came together in the Saanich emergency operations centre at Saanich municipal hall. The exercise was coordinated over several months by the Saanich Emergency Program and is the third year of a three year plan to train and prepare Saanich staff for an emergency protocol, Deputy Chief Frank MacDonald said.

READ ALSO: Council warned of meth lab in Saanich’s Cuthbert Holmes Park

READ ALSO: Inspections, training needed to prevent repeat of Fernie ammonia leak across B.C.

At the arena, Pearkes staff exercised its exposure control plans. The CRD Hazmat team and truck arrived, setting up a de-contaminating area for the firefighters after they returned from the contaminated area of the arena.

After a short banter as to the merits of why you would, or wouldn’t bringing a knife under the hazmat Level A vapour sealed suit (both had good reasoning), the two firefighters zipped into the suits, breathing through air tanks, and entered Pearkes just before 10 a.m.

By 10:15 a.m., and with the remaining ammonia sealed inside the building, Saanich Fire declared a worsening situation, creating a “prolonged emergency event.”

That’s when the team of 45 at Saanich municipal hall continue to run through a convoluted series of exercises at the Saanich emergency operation centre.

“The EOC supports the event or emergency site, it’s not trying to fix the problem, but make sure they have the resources and information they need to be successful at the site,” MacDonald said.

The day-long exercise continued and also included observers and participants from Emergency Management BC, WorkSafe, CRD Hazmat, University of Victoria, BC Transit, and contractors. Throughout the exercise Saanich communications would have released a series of updates to the media and public through social media.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Victoria Police Department headquarters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Investigation launched into man’s death after arrest in Victoria

IIO investigation to determine if police actions or inaction played a role in the man’s death

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

Victoria School for Ideal Education at 2820 Belmont Avenue is the second school in Greater Victoria with an active confirmed COVID-19 exposure. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Private school becomes second Greater Victoria school with COVID-19 exposure

Victoria School for Ideal Education follows Lakeview Christian School in Saanich

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

Saanich police Chief Constable Scott Green (right) stands with Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers program coordinators Phil Downie and Gill Millam who received a Crime Stoppers International award for their work in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Saanich Police Department)
People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Most Read