The horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash is a focus of an emergency preparedness conference in Winnipeg. Officials from the Saskatchewan city were in town to share the lessons learned in dealing with tragedy.
Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured in the crash last April, devastating the town of about 6,000 people as well as the entire country.
Humboldt city manager Joe Day told 680 CJOB one of the important parts of dealing with the crisis was getting information out properly.
“If the media doesn’t get those stories from folks like the mayor and Kevin , … from the fire chief and myself, you know, people start to create their own stories, especially on social media.”
Day said the community response and recovery session at the conference was aimed at giving insight to other communities.
He said even though the crash happened out of town, Humboldt became the epicentre of the tragedy and figuring out how to respond was a big challenge. While they were well-versed in how to deal with train derailments and such, he said, this was completely different.
“This was all about finding a location for people to come and begin the grieving process,” Day said.
Day said after all the loss, grieving and attention stemming from the tragic event, there were three main takeaways:
- The importance of established contacts — personal and professional — that disaster management officials can call upon in a time of need
- Being prepared for the media — knowing how to interact and convey information so as not to become overwhelmed
- Mental health training — remembering to take into account the impact of emotion on all involved
WATCH: Humboldt Broncos visit bus crash memorial site
Remembering back to when the crash happened, Day said they first started hearing about the tragedy on social media. They received confirmation from officials in Nipawin of multiple fatalities at 7 p.m.
“By 7:20 we had assembled a team at city hall to figure out how we needed to respond,” Day said. He added they didn’t really have a playbook since the crash didn’t happen in the town, and they didn’t have a physical scene to manage.
“Nobody was displaced from their homes. There wasn’t an accident scene within our own municipal boundaries that we had to take care of.”
Day said the way the plan unfolded was 99 per cent instinct, and it would have turned out differently if they hadn’t taken steps to manage the public, the message, the media, and to work together in hosting the vigil.
“We and the people of Humboldt can’t own the tragedy. Talking to the media, to the world, is part of helping everyone grieve,” Day said, noting that the crash was felt by people everywhere.
The Manitoba National Disaster Management Conference takes place at the Canad Inns, Polo Park, Wednesday through Friday.
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