Varennes, Québec — Soldiers from Territorial Battalion Group (TBG) Montréal deployed to the small community of Varennes in the Montérégie region April 17. Working with the Quebec provincial police, the public safety department and various municipal agencies, TBG Montréal practiced a number of scenarios that could arise in the event of a natural disaster.
The operation was based on a fictitious disaster scenario, such as a major earthquake affecting the entire region. Civilian authorities, unable to handle a disaster of this scale alone, had to call on various organizations for help. These included the department of public safety, the municipal fire department, the Quebec provincial police, the Varennes municipal police and the Canadian Forces (CF).
“We call upon our entire staff during the operational planning process. Our task is to work with and support the civilian authorities in a variety of ways,” explained Major Luc St Jean, deputy commander of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and leader of the inter-organizational team during the exercise.
The TBG was comprised of nearly 130 members, including the headquarters, communications elements from 71 Communications Group and some logistics elements. They conducted several different scenarios, ranging from search and rescue to setting up a refugee camp, escorting convoys, controlling demonstrations and going door to door to reassure the population.
“What this gives us is telephony by Internet protocol, which operates with cellular frequencies, so there’s no need for wires. Because the earthquake probably would’ve destroyed landlines, we use airwaves. Radio and cellular frequencies work very well in this sort of scenario,” explained Corporal Hugo Brunet, a signal operator with 712 Communication Squadron. “Thanks to this equipment, we can clear the radio waves by redirecting traffic through the Internet.”
There are numerous challenges associated with an exercise like this. “First of all, we have a new group every year, so we have to gel as a team, get to know one another so we can work quickly and effectively. Our second problem is that we don’t have a lot of opportunities to work with civilian organizations. These people have a lot of expertise to offer, and our job is to find out what they can contribute to our organization and how we can coordinate our efforts in conducting operations.”
Article and photo: MCpl Jean Nicolas Minville, reporter with Army News.