CAF works with partners to improve air operations



The Canadian Armed Forces is working hand-in-hand with partners in British Columbia to create a provincial air operations plan for emergencies such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

In Canada, the coast of BC is the region most at risk from a major earthquake. In the event of a catastrophic natural disaster, having a coordinated plan that pulls together aviation resources from both private and government agencies is essential for a rapid and efficient response.

British Columbia launched the provincial Aviation Management Interoperability for Emergency Response and Recovery project in 2014 to modernize its efforts. Aircraft are used for a variety of tasks, including transporting people and supplies, urban search and rescue (SAR), and surveying infrastructure damage.

“We have to transition from what exists now, which is a structure based on wildfire operations, to a coordinated structure involving regional, provincial, and federal organizations like the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” said Major Jeff Byam, a planner with the CAF’s Air Component Coordination Element Pacific.

“Our program aims to enhance Canada’s ability to anticipate, prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, serious accidents, crime, and terrorism,” explains Dr. Mark Williamson, director general of Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science. “Our experts oversee project teams where we’ve brought together science and technology experts with policy-makers, planners, operators and decision-makers from various levels of government, industry and academia – both civilian and military – to identify public safety and security challenges and develop solutions.”

The project is looking at protocols at the partner agency level for aircraft procurement, air task management, and logistics support. Systems interoperability is fundamental for information sharing, and integrating systems from various agencies so partners are receiving the same situational awareness information and have access to one shared operating picture is also being examined.

In addition to the CAF’s Joint Task Force Pacific (JTFP), project partners and stakeholders include BC Wildfire Services, BC Emergency Health Services and Emergency Management BC, Nav Canada, Transport Canada, RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard, and PEP Air, the BC branch of the federal volunteer Civil Air SAR Association.

Exercises test emergency plans

JTFP’s existing earthquake support plan, including the newly improved air support portion, was put to the test in June during Exercise STAUNCH MAPLE 16. STAUNCH MAPLE was a military exercise designed to test portions of the earthquake plan while supporting Exercise COASTAL RESPONSE 16, a provincial exercise based on a fictional magnitude 9.0 earthquake that generates a tsunami.

The exercises included real-time activities and simulations aimed at testing emergency plans. As part of the aviation plan project, partners used the exercises to test efficient management of large volumes of aircraft resource requests, the ability to gather valuable information from different agencies, damage assessment, and systems interoperability.

Although the aviation plan under development is currently provincial and for air resources only, the model could be expanded to include marine and road resources, and be adapted nationally and for other jurisdictions.

“The exercises were a great experience and gave me confidence that should a catastrophic earthquake occur, we have some great people and structure to allow us air planners – federal and provincial – to work together and ensure air support is provided to the people of BC in a safe effective manner,” concludes Maj Byam.

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