Joining the Challenge
March 25, 2013 - In October 2012, Ontario 211 participated in The Huron Challenge: Trillium Resolve, an emergency exercise organized by Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) that involved dozens of organizations across four counties in central Ontario. This was a unique opportunity for Ontario 211 Regional Service Partners to collaborate and test their ability to respond and to work together. The coordinated response was led by Community Connection, the 211 Regional Service Partner located in Collingwood, serving the Central East region. It was a terrific learning opportunity both for 211 and partners in EMO, municipalities and other service organizations that respond at times of emergency. Drill scenarios were multi-layered and included a radioactive fuel spill, road closures, multiple accidents and power outages. From 211 providers the exercise response required the usual up to date and reliable information to the public provided by well-prepared information specialists but in a fast changing information environment. Additional roles for 211 providers included collection of information about offers to volunteer and donate goods and services.
211 providers are rigorous in their attention to accuracy and currency of information every day. During an emergency (or in this case an exercise) the information that may be critical for decisions that have to be made by people who are impacted by the incident, changes very quickly. The public may need to know for example how to find people or basic supplies or services. The sources of emergency specific information are often the Emergency Information Officers (EIO) in the Emergency Operations Centres with whom it is essential to develop good lines of communication. During real emergency situations 211 providers may receive phone calls from the public before there is formal notification of the emergency and before credible information is available.
Some of the elements that 211 providers tested during the exercise were routing telecommunications systems to other regions, responding to mock disaster related inquiries, communication protocols and activating a disaster database which consists of information that is constantly updated with new related information. Call handling tools and the disaster database is accessible to all seven 211 services
which back each other up during an incident, through a cloud-based portal. Unlike a real emergency incident, an exercise does not have a prolonged recovery period. 211 providers know that after the fine work of emergency responders is completed during and following an incident there are often weeks, perhaps months of recovery for local residents and communities. There is a considerable role for 211 services to provide reassurance and continuous reliable information about available services through a long-term recovery period.
For more information view Bruce Power’s video describing their role in the exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmQy2bfgHK8&feature=youtu.be