Emergency drill offers opportunity to test responses

A graduate student and a research technician are working in a campus lab on a
quiet summer morning. Suddenly, there’s an explosion that knocks the research
technician to the floor, unconscious.

His shaken colleague calls 822-4567 — the UBC hazardous materials emergency
response number.

“There’s been an explosion involving hazardous materials in the Wesbrook
building,” she says, “and someone’s been hurt.”

That was the scenario used in recent elaborate emergency drill organized by
UBC’s Dept. of Health, Safety and Environment.

Code-named Operation Solstice and held on the first full day of summer, June
21, the drill co-ordinated the efforts of Health, Safety and Environment,
Parking and Security Services, Public Affairs, the Vancouver Fire Dept. and its
Hazardous Materials Response Team, the RCMP, B.C. Ambulance Service and
Vancouver Hospital, UBC Pavilion.

“These exercises are really valuable in determining the sequence of events and
what we need to work on in emergency planning,” said Dorit Mason, environmental
and emergency planning officer in Health, Safety and Environment.

“If everything runs perfectly, then it’s not worth doing the drill in the first
place. The goal is to always find ways of improving what we do.”

The emergency scenario was especially useful this year because it marks the
first time it has been conducted with the Vancouver Fire Dept., which now
services the campus after absorbing the UEL Fire Dept.