Minister of Community Services Richard Mostyn has issued the following statement:
“Today, I am pleased to announce that last week’s interagency territorial exercise Operation NANOOK-TATIGIIT was a resounding success.
“The state of the Yukon’s emergency preparedness has been the most asked question I have faced in my travels since the fires and floods swept across the North and Canada this summer.
“Operation NANOOK-TATIGIIT is an exercise run by the Canadian Armed Forces and it is designed to test and enhance emergency preparedness in the territories – specifically what so many Yukoners have asked for.
“In Whitehorse, staff from several municipalities and First Nations, the Yukon government, electrical and telecom utilities and the Canadian Armed Forces tested our communication and power systems and challenged our ability to work together during an emergency response.
“I want Yukoners to know the exercise was not seamless, neat or tidy. Participants exposed problems issues in our systems, staffing, facilities and cross-agency co-ordination that will now be addressed and improved. In that, the exercise was absolutely a resounding success.
“Identifying these things, confronting and recognizing problems is precisely why we hold them. These exercises are critical learning tools.
"They allow the territory, city, utilities and Canadian Armed Forces to test our systems and staff and improve emergency preparedness and co-ordination amongst all levels of government when lives, homes and infrastructure are not at immediate risk.
“This year, we simulated a winter ice storm that caused widespread highway closures and power outages across the Southern Lakes.
“The participants worked together to clear roads, tackle telecommunications outages, establish warming centres, keep Yukoners informed and respond to related incidents, including several major structure fires.
“Behind the scenes, this involves a lot of work on procurement, delivery, coordination and communications – all while running on backup power and satellite internet.
“Our government also practised the process of officially requesting federal assistance.
“I attended a debrief on Friday. I saw firsthand that this exercise had built relationships that will improve co-ordination and planning with our partner agencies and governments well ahead of an actual emergency. I heard candour and honest talk about gaps that emerged and how we are going to close them across all agencies.
“From opening warming shelters for evacuees to operating critical infrastructure and keeping critical generators supplied with adequate fuel during a crisis, there were plenty of lessons learned.
“Participants included the City of Whitehorse, the Village of Carmacks and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation; utilities like ATCO Electric, Yukon Energy and NorthwesTel; response agencies, including the RCMP; volunteer associations like the Yukon Amateur Radio Association; and private sector partners including fuel suppliers, local hotels, trucking companies and department stores.
“We will use what we learned to improve our procedures, so we can better respond when Yukoners’ lives are at risk.
“Yukoners have wanted to know since the summer if we are planning for future emergencies.
“Today, I want them to hear from me, clearly, that our governments and agencies, utilities, businesses and civilian volunteers are absolutely working together to improve our ability to respond to an emergency on their behalf. Of course, there is more to do. There always is. And citizens have a responsibility too.
“We all have a responsibility to prepare for an emergency. This won’t be the last time I remind Yukoners that emergency preparedness begins at home.
“As we head into winter, update your emergency plan and emergency kit. That should include warm clothing, a crank radio and enough food and water for your whole family for three days.
“If you can weather the first few days of an emergency at home or with friends, it helps responders focus on keeping critical infrastructure running.
“Once again, thank you to the Canadian Armed Forces for running this exercise and to all the participants for enhancing the Yukon’s emergency preparedness.”