"TOUJOURS LÀ, TOUJOURS PRÊT", HMCS Radisson practises disaster response

LINK - April 2017 / May 31, 2017

By NCdt Jean-François Chapdelaine, HMCS Radisson

On 11 February 2017, the third edition of the winter exercise TOUJOURS LÀ TOUJOURS PRÊT was held. About 50 members of HMCS Radisson braved the cold and snow to simulate a response to a domestic disaster.

Throughout the day, the Radisson members acted out a realistic scenario in which the civil authorities, grappling with a natural disaster, requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). A scenario like this is reminiscent of the CAF's previous intervention in New Brunswick as part of Operation LENTUS. "Quebec is experiencing more and more natural disasters, and it's not unusual for the Canadian Army to be called in to help. Just think of the Saguenay floods in 1996, the ice storm in 1998 or, more recently, the Montérégie flooding in 2011," said Lt(N) Charles Bélanger, the officer in charge of the exercise.

The HMCS Radisson members set up a command post in the field, secured it, and responded to requests from the civil authorities. The tasks involved were varied and included replenishing gasoline and water supplies, transporting key personnel, responding at the scenes of road accidents, and assisting a family whose home had been destroyed. "These scenarios are designed to test our sailors' reactions in emergency conditions. The members were divided into independent teams, which gave a lot of responsibilities to the different team leaders, but also a lot of freedom in deciding what actions to take when an unforeseen situation arose. In disaster response, it's essential to establish good communication between the teams on the ground and the people at the command post, and the participants really understood that," added Lieutenant (Navy) (Lt(N)) Bélanger.

For the commanders at HMCS Radisson, the scenario began even before the day of the exercise, Lt(N) Bélanger explained. "For the command team, the exercise started on Thursday, when we activated our member callout system. It was important that we test the system and know our response capability. If Radisson was called upon to deploy tomorrow morning, we'd need to know how many members we could mobilize and how long it would take us to become operational."

In addition to training the reservists to respond to a disaster in Canada, Exercise TOUJOURS LÀ TOUJOURS PRÊT also covered various aspects of the work done by the new Naval Security Teams (NSTs). "Setting up a command post in the field and securing an area in accordance with a force protection plan are two important aspects of the missions that will be assigned to the NSTs, and there are not a lot of exercises that train reservists for these types of tasks. Exercise « TOUJOURS LÀ TOUJOURS PRÊT » is the only one of its kind," said Lt(N) Bélanger.

Naturally, there was a great deal of curiosity among other Naval Reserve members about the results of this type of exercise. However, the Radisson team was not expecting a visit during the exercise from the Naval Reserve Commander, Commodore Marta Mulkins! "We were very happy that she accepted our invitation, and it was very motivating for us," said Lt(N) Bélanger. "She was impressed by what we were able to accomplish. It did add a bit of extra stress, especially during the morning briefing, but everything went well. Mission accomplished!"