June 16th, 2024

Lethbridge College students participate in mock disaster

By Lethbridge Herald on November 19, 2022.

Lethbridge College photo Lethbridge College Digital Communications and Media students replicate a press conference with community officials during a mock disaster training scenario.

Lethbridge College Digital Communications and Media (DCM) students got some valuable ‘on-the-scene’ experience early in the semester thanks to their participation in a mock disaster conducted by the communities within the Municipal District of Willow Creek.

The exercise simulated EF3 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) tornados touching down in the communities of Nanton, Claresholm, Stavely, Fort Macleod, and Granum. Community officials and the DCM students played out a scenario involving casualties, a loss of power, extensive infrastructure damage, impassable roads, a train derailment, plane crash, and multiple fires.

The EF is a six-point scale to measure the intensity of wind damage. Environment Canada classifies an EF3 as having wind speeds of 225 to 265 km/h. 

Second-year DCM students played the role of journalists and attended Zoom media conferences on Oct. 5 and a conference in Fort Macleod on Oct. 6 to question municipal officials about their crisis response, recovery, and public accountability.

The students were asked to react on the fly to a mock scenario they had no prior knowledge of.

“We were able to practice our listening and questioning techniques in real time,” Rachel Gelowitz, DCM student, said in the release. “It was helpful to get practical experience in a safe environment where all parties are learning.”

On the other side of the podium, mayors and elected officials from participating municipalities honed their messaging and media presentation skills by fielding questions from a large group of student reporters.

For some, it was their first time “interacting with journalists in that environment,” it was stated in the release.

“Not everyone has experience standing in front of a media scrum and answering questions while lights, cameras and microphones are pointed at them,” Martina Emard, DCM instructor, said in the release. “I’m glad students were able to provide that learning opportunity to participating community officials.”

The students, instructors and community officials held a group debriefing after the mock scrum to share their points of view. The exercise was held to bolster emergency response communication skills and the delivery of clear information to the public in the case of a disaster.

“Crisis communications is never easy, especially during large-scale emergencies,” Mark Murphy, exercise director, said in the release. “The participation of Lethbridge College was an excellent addition to this exercise.”

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