Ontario government holds heat wave preparedness simulation

May 7, 2024 | Canadian News, News

The Ontario government is hosting Exercise Heatwave, a three-day emergency preparedness exercise that will test provincial procedures and responses to heat-related emergencies.

The exercises began on Tuesday, and will conclude on Friday.

Caroline Mulroney, president of the Treasury Board and minister responsible for Emergency Management, said this is an important exercise for Ontario.

“Exercise Heatwave is a valuable opportunity to practice and plan for our response to potential extreme heat emergencies,” said Mulroney.

“Planning exercises like this one will play a critical role in keeping Ontarians safe while reducing economic strain and minimizing impacts on our infrastructure and environment,” she said.

The exercise will help enhance coordination and collaboration between government and non-governmental partners during future emergencies, a government press release said.

Andrea Chiappetta, a spokesperson for Mulroney said the exercise is crucial. “The exercise is an opportunity to see how municipal, provincial, federal, and other public and private sector partners work together during an extreme heat event with multiple impacts on communities,” said Chiappetta.

Six municipalities will participate, including Guelph, Mississauga, Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Toronto, along with three federal government departments and more than 50 non-governmental organizations, Chiappetta said.

Chiappetta said the Ontario Government, through Emergency Management Ontario, is leading the planning, conduct and evaluation of the exercise.

“As committed to in the Provincial Emergency Management Strategy and Action Plan, the province will hold provincial priority exercises with partners every two years starting in 2024,” said Chiappetta. “This is part of Ontario’s plan to be safe, practiced and prepared.”

Queens Park laid out its 2024 provincial emergency management strategy and action plan in a report titled “Safe, Practiced and Prepared Ontario 2023 Annual Report”.

The plan calls for more cross-government exercises and enhanced provincial emergency management coordination to respond to emergencies by continuing to review and update provincial emergency management plans.

The report said in 2024, the provincial government aims to “strengthen provincial coordination of preparedness and response to social emergencies, to mitigate events or situations that carry risk to human health and life, mental wellness, or to the social fabric and well-being of the community.”

The government press release said these exercises will not affect the public or any provincial services.

The Canadian Climate Institute, a registered charity and research organization founded in 2021, said extreme heat is getting more frequent and intense throughout Canada.

The Ontario Public Health Emergencies Science Advisory Committee (OPHESAC) published a report in 2023 which laid out the threat posed by heat emergencies to Canadians.

“Heat emergencies pose a substantial threat to the health and wellbeing of Ontarians. They range from several days of high heat posing risks to very vulnerable individuals to very significant longer term heat domes, combined with other emergencies that have the potential to kill or harm much larger numbers of people,” the report said.

The exercises are part of a broader provincial Emergency Preparedness Week, which began on Monday and end on May 11.

Emergency Preparedness Week is an annual national awareness campaign to educate Ontarians about “the actions people can take to prepare for emergency situations,” an Ontario government news release said.

Exercise Heatwave is part of the government’s multi-year Provincial Exercise Program to strengthen the province’s emergency plans and whole-of-government emergency response.