Training exercise allows multiple first responders to ‘train as they play’

First responders approach a (staged) fire on an island as part of Marine Training Day on Thursday, Jun. 13, 2019. Photo by First Response Media.

One week ago, Kingston and the area experienced weather similar to that we have today – a lot of rain – but that didn’t stop the multi-jurisdictional emergency response training scheduled to take place on the St. Lawrence River.

On Thursday, Jun. 13, 2019, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Marine Unit hosted a mock disaster training exercise in the Rockport, Ont. area, bringing together multiple emergency response detachments to train and prepare for similar emergency situations that might occur on a body of water.

This was the fourth year the OPP hosted a Marine Training Day, which demonstrate how cross-border services can come together when there is an emergency on the water. The marine rescue drill involved 18 vessels and a cross section of first responders: Parks Canada, the RCMP, the Canadian and US Coast Guard, five different local fire departments and the Clayton, NY fire department, and, of course, many members from different OPP detachments in the area.

Students trained and tested for swimming capabilities through the Leeds Township Parks and Recreation Department acting as the victims in the mock disasters, four drills were carried out on the water, all while the rain persisted throughout the afternoon. One of the drills involved a capsized boat, another involving a boat that hit a rock, and another involving a fire on an island where the ‘victims’ had to jump into the water for safety. Some of the drills involved all agencies working together, while others had agencies acting by themselves to see the different ways the ‘emergencies’ on the water could be handled.

“The day is used as an opportunity for all emergency services that operate on the St. Lawrence River to meet each other, [and] get an understanding of each forces capabilities and resources,” said Const. Aftim Nassar of the Leeds County OPP. “The day itself went well aside from the weather.”

But there was good reason the event went ahead despite the cold and rain, Nassar explained.

“It all comes back to the old saying ‘train as you play.’ Each day is filled with its own challenges, weather is just one part of the puzzle,” he said. “Training in bad weather serves to reinforce the boat operators’ navigation skills, and therefore increases their skills and confidence to do the job.”

Below are just some of the photos captured that day by our photographers, which show the intensity – and importance – of this kind of training.

All photos by First Response Media.


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