A volcanic eruption on Mount Baker is the scenario for a Canada/US joint emergency preparedness exercise this week. (USGS photo)

Langley and Abbotsford first responders part of Homeland Security mock disaster event

The fifth Canada-United States Enhanced Resiliency Experiment takes place this week.

Will the technology of Langley’s emergency responders, federal and provincial governments, and US neighbour governments work if Mount Baker’s volcano erupted?

That’s the question being tested in the fifth Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE V) disaster response exercise Wednesday and Thursday.

Langley’s fire departments are among the agencies taking part.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and Canada Department of National Defence’s Centre for Security Science will conduct the fifth Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE V) from Nov. 15 to 16, 2017.

In this year’s experiment, emergency management officials and first responder agencies on both sides of the border will test their plans and gear as well as assess cooperation procedures in response to a volcanic eruption and crater collapse scenario at Mt. Baker.

Participants will include local first responders and emergency management agencies from Whatcom County, Washington in the U.S., Abbotsford, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency.

CAUSE started in 2011 to ensure the two nations could work well together in an emergency. Each time the exercise takes place in a different location to test cross-border communications and interoperability between emergency responders and emergency management agencies on both sides of the border.

As part of the exercise, the volcano has increased activity which prompts the Cascades Volcano Observatory to raise the alert level. The first major earthquake occurs in the subsequent weeks, followed by steam and ash emission. The National Weather Service forecasts river flooding and lahar, which is a destructive flow of volcanic debris. In mid-November, a volcanic eruption of Mt. Baker causes a collapse of the Sherman crater wall and sends lahar down to the valley.

The lahar causes extensive damage in both Washington and B.C., requiring an immediate response from multiple agencies from both sides of the border.

The testing will include the communications networks, social media monitoring, alerts, warning systems, and even aerial robots for damage assessment.

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