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Friday, November 22, 2019

Mock Disaster Simulates Mass Opioid Overdose

Grey County | by Claire McCormack  

Grey County officials and emergency responders train for a public health crisis.

This year's annual disaster training exercise in Grey County focused on a large scale opioid overdose incident.

County Communications manager Rob Hatten says every year, they try out a different scenario to make sure their emergency plans are working, "It could be a tornado, an ice storm, any sort of natural disaster. This year was pretty unique though,' says Hatten explaining it's the first Public Health emergency they've tried in recent memory.

The exercise, held on November 7th, at County headquarters was a simulated scenario where 50,000 people are in West Grey to attend an outdoor concert in a field and tainted drugs are going around.

County Communications manager Rob Hatten says numerous community service providers took part including Grey County officials, those from West Grey and Owen Sound, the Health Unit, hospitals, Victim Services, paramedic services, police, fire and other partners.

County Warden Selwyn Hicks says in the scenario, there were fatalities and the concert was cancelled before it started, while emergency responders managed overdoses. Meanwhile, Hicks says in the scenario, people began to leave the area, the drugs making their way into other communities. He says the group also looked at how to communicate with the media about the hypothetical issue as it unfolded.

Rob Hatten says it may be the first time in Ontario a large scale overdose incident like this has been used in a training exercise.

He says the County and the Grey Bruce Health Unit came up with the idea in part, because Public Health is looking to develop an Opioid Response plan.

"This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to test what they've developed so far and to see if it's working and to help make tweaks to the plan," says Hatten.

Warden Selwyn Hicks says part of the exercise was determining when to declare things a state of emergency at a County level and when other municipalities would do so.

In a media release, Public Health Manager Ian Reich, says "From a Public Health lens, testing response to a large-scale overdose situation is important. The scenario humanizes the opioid epidemic and provides a realistic opportunity to view how it can touch everyone."

For more information about emergency management in Grey County, visit www.grey.ca/emergency-preparedness.

Hanover also recently did its annual disaster exercise which involved a collision with a truck carrying chemicals that caused a spill and eventually a fire that firefighters in the scenario were successful at containing, but a rainstorm then began to wash the chemicals along the streets. 

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