It’s a scene you hope to never see: BC Ferries passengers forced to abandon ship due to a fire on board. But, it could happen.

That’s why nearly a thousand people, from a range of emergency and rescue agencies, joined forces for “Exercise Salish Sea”.

It’s the largest maritime incident exercise in Canadian Coast Guard history.

Kicking off the drill, the MV Coastal Renaissance sat disabled in the Strait of Georgia Wednesday morning with 100 volunteer passengers on board anxiously waiting to be rescued.

“Today it’s about life and limb and making sure no one false between the cracks,” Victoria-based Assistant Commissionaire for Canadian Coast Guard Roger Girouard said.

It’s a training opportunity for agencies to work together in a maritime emergency scenario and practice a co-ordinated response.

“This is probably as complex a response as I’ve ever seen,” Girouard adds.

Once passengers were safely placed in rescue rafts, they were brought to the Fernwood Dock on Salt Spring Island.

That’s where crews identify passengers and (fake) injuries as they went through triage.

“This gives an ability to test our mass casualty incident management and to hone in on our triage protocols,” BC Emergency Health Services Paul Vallely said.

The exercise will continue Thursday.

“Day two tomorrow is the full environmental response of a vessel that caught fire, drifting in the ocean,” Victoria Search and Resue’s Nathan Webb said.

The simulated clean will see booms and more teams out of the water Thursday.

Officials are calculating the efficiency of this exercise to see what went well and what can be improved.

These are steps to ensure they’re ready to respond when disaster strikes.

 

Isabelle Raghem