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Cablegate: Ontario Conducts Emergency Management Exercise

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PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHON #0020 0241939
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241939Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2316
INFO RUCNCAN/ALCAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0040

UNCLAS TORONTO 000020

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMED PREL CASC PGOV CA
SUBJECT: Ontario Conducts Emergency Management Exercise

Sensitive but Unclassified - Protect Accordingly.

1. (SBU) Following up on recommendations by the UK and U.S. Consuls
General in Toronto, Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) organized an
emergency management exercise in Toronto on January 16. Hosted by
Ontario Commissioner for Emergency Management Jay Hope, the session
brought together five staff from the British, U.S., Portuguese, and
South African consulates general, with 26 Canadian municipal,
provincial, and federal emergency management professionals from law
enforcement, fire, hospital administration, transit, community
safety, the Red Cross, and Canadian Forces agencies. Discussion
focused on post-emergency decision-making and communication
strategies.

2. (SBU) The discussion was kicked off by an in-depth "procedures
followed and lessons learned" review of the aftermath of the
September 2, 1998 crash of New York to Geneva-bound Swiss Air flight
111 just off Nova Scotia. The investigation concluded the Swiss Air
flight, which crashed while attempting an emergency landing at
Halifax airport killing all 229 persons on board, was due to an
electrical fire. In detailing the crash and its aftermath, Andy
Latham, the RCMP officer in charge of the investigation and
currently the Director of Emergency Programs at Emergency Management
Nova Scotia, explained the challenges of managing the multinational
response to the accident while maintaining the integrity of the
investigation. He stressed the importance of: Looking after the
people involved, both victims' families and responders; "Think big
or go home" i.e., making decisions and following-through with huge
resource commitments; including other agencies and volunteers (the
recovery itself clocked 40,000 volunteer hours); establishing and
maintaining strong lines of communication; and encouraging
volunteers to leave their egos at the door.

3. (SBU) After the Swiss Air crash overview, the group conducted an
emergency response scenario to a simulated head-on commuter train
and passenger train collision during a winter morning's rush hour
just east of Toronto, resulting in hundreds killed or injured and up
to 2,000 people wandering around the accident site. The
after-scenario discussion focused on the roles of emergency
management (especially fire and police first response), medical
needs, identifying and tracking the victims, communication to
consulate representatives and the general public, handling of
international visitors and the media, and the impact of language and
cultural considerations. One participant emphasized the truly
catastrophic nature of the fictional scenario by noting that, other
than the Swiss Air 111 crash, the last time Canada experienced a
tragedy of this magnitude was the Halifax explosion of 1917.

4. (SBU) Comment: British Consul General Nicholas Armour began the
afternoon by noting that, following the August 2, 2005 Air France
crash at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, he could not get
an answer from any offices he called looking for information about
British citizens on the flight. Following the Air France crash U.S.
Consulate staff also could not obtain vital information, such as the
nationalities of passengers, from provincial officials. Informal
person to person contacts developed by our Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) officers working at Pearson Airport helped us
quickly identify and locate the AmCits involved.

5. (SBU) Comment (continued): Given that more than 50% of the
Greater Toronto Area's 5 million residents are foreign-born, that
about 250,000 American citizens live in ConGen Toronto's consular
district, and that many Ontario municipalities along the border
already have cross-border emergency response agreements (mostly
informal) with neighboring U.S. municipalities, the response to any
significant emergency in southern Ontario will be international (and
almost certainly involve the U.S.). The exercise did not provide
certainty regarding which of Canada's federal, provincial, or
municipal government agencies would be our primary points of contact
for different kinds or locations of emergencies, perhaps previewing
the difficulty for consular officials of finding the information
nexus in the aftermath of the next emergency in Ontario. We hope
that EMO will soon develop an effective standard operating procedure
to ensure that provincial officials provide the information that we
and other consulates will need during future emergencies involving
foreign nationals in Ontario. End Comment.

TUNIS

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