Thursday, February 05, 2009

Manitoba’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team will test a new, all-season, state-of-the-art mobile command vehicle near Waterhen Feb. 10 and 11 during a 150-person remote deployment winter exercise, Labour and Immigration Minister Nancy Allan, minister responsible for the Office of the Fire Commissioner, announced today.

“This is the largest winter exercise ever organized by the fire commissioner, bringing together front‑line and support agencies in conditions that will challenge individuals and equipment,” said Allan.

“This exercise will also test the capacity of provincial and community resources to provide support to the response groups. We believe that if we can successfully operate in a remote environment, then we should have no problem in an urban setting. This exercise will come up against some of the most severe geographic and weather-related issues our province can pose.”

Agencies scheduled to participate include the Office of the Fire Commissioner, Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, RCMP, the Department of National Defence, Winnipeg Police Service, Search and Rescue Manitoba and a number of ground search and rescue teams, the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association and the community of Waterhen. Frontier School Division is providing students to act as victims during the exercise.

The new, state-of-the-art mobile command post will be tested for the first time. The vehicle features advanced satellite technology to assist ground and air search teams and is self-contained with its own power and water systems. A recently acquired unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will also be used in this search and rescue operation. The remote-control unit provides pictures, video and mapping capability using geographic information systems. Assiniboine Community College in Brandon is providing technical assistance and operators for the UAV. The USAR mobile, 10-bed multi-casualty treatment facility, staffed with medical professionals, will also be incorporated in the exercise for the first time.

Manitoba’s USAR team is prepared to respond to any emergency anywhere in any weather. The team recently participated in a cross-boundary exercise with Ontario in November. USAR can provide technical rescue services for many emergencies and is capable of providing any type of search and rescue activity, regardless of the size and complexity of the incident.

The Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner has the responsibility for running the USAR team of more than 100 members in Manitoba. It is made up of emergency response professionals from municipal and provincial services.

There are five USAR teams across Canada in Vancouver, Calgary, Manitoba, Toronto and Halifax which are jointly funded by the Government of Canada. The teams were formed after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.