Salish Sea Exercise 2017 – Order of events and partner contributions


The Gulf Islands were the site of a simulated ferry evacuation yesterday, with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) coordinating search and rescue operations in a large-scale, on-water exercise. The exercise is jointly managed by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard with coordination through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) involving both air coordination by the CAF and marine rescue coordination by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Following the ferry evacuation, command was handed to the Canadian Coast Guard for environmental response operations. It was all part of day one of Exercise Salish Sea 2017 – a multi-agency maritime disaster training exercise happening on Oct. 25 and 26th.

On October 25, B.C. Ferries provided the M/V Coastal Renaissance as a platform for the exercise, simulating a scenario requiring the rapid evacuation of 100 passengers due to an onboard fire. Royal Canadian Navy volunteers acted as passengers on the water, and community members played that role at the ensuing casualty reception points on Salt Spring Island. This exercise allowed responding agencies to test their coordination and rescue protocols for a mass evacuation on the water, as well as the subsequent treatment, transport and transfer of survivors into the care of numerous Provincial and local agencies ashore.

Once the search and rescue portions of the exercise were complete, the Canadian Armed Forces officially transferred command of operations to the Canadian Coast Guard, who are leading the environmental response exercise today in collaboration with the B.C. Ministry of Environment, as well as local and Indigenous government representatives.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Bartlett is standing in for the M/V Coastal Renaissance as the vessel for the marine environmental response portion of the exercise. Responders are practicing how agencies would work together to ensure environmental protection and stewardship following this type of emergency.

Canadian Armed Forces – Joint Task Force Pacific

As one of the main partners, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) – Joint Task Force Pacific was the lead agency on the initial response on Day 1 of the exercise. As Search and Rescue Region Commander, Rear Admiral Art McDonald led the search and rescue phase on Day 1 of the exercise and then transferred command of the casualty to Coast Guard, through Coast Guard Western Region Assistant Commissioner Roger Girouard, once the search and rescue was completed. Canadian Armed Forces is also providing aeronautical assets and expertise for the exercise. As well, 100 armed forces members will act as individuals who will be evacuated from the ferry and triaged.

Canadian Coast Guard

As a partner in the delivery of search and rescue services in Canada, Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) marine coordinators will provide maritime expertise while working with the CAF aeronautical coordinators under the authority of the Search and Rescue Region Commander to ensure the right mix of marine and aeronautical assets, from multiple organizations, are tasked to respond once the BC Ferry has indicated it is in distress. The first contact for any vessel in distress would be Marine Communications Traffic Services centre in Victoria – essential partner in SAR by providing the radio-communications link between the rescue centre and the vessel in distress. The Canadian Coast Guard will have one multi-tasked vessel, one hovercraft, one lifeboat and multiple small rigid-hull vessels to respond, along with a Coast Guard helicopter for the environmental response phase of the response. On the second day of the exercise, once the handover from the Search and Rescue lead has taken place, pollution response vessels from Coast Guard and other partners will simulate the response to a potential pollution threat so as to ensure the protection of the marine environment.

BC Ferries

As a sponsor partner, BC Ferries is providing the MV Coastal Renaissance as the platform for the evacuation during the exercise. Both the ferry and staff are being made available during the exercise, as well as the incident command post and their situation centre.

BC Emergency Health Services

As a sponsor partner, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is participating in the exercise during the search and rescue phase, with paramedics providing triage and transport to hospital for volunteers acting as victims, as well as working closely with Coast Guard on casualty management and tracking. BCEHS is testing its Mass Casualty Incident plan involving paramedics, dispatchers and supervisors during the triage facility set up at Fernwood Dock, Salt Spring Island. This allows for processes to be practised involving the handover of victims in a sea rescue, and to evaluate coordination between the Coast Guard and BCEHS.

Emergency Management BC

Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is leading the coordination and implementation of the B.C. government’s participation in Exercise Salish Sea. This includes an activation of the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre, the Vancouver Island Provincial Regional Emergency Operation Centre, and the Emergency Operations Centres on Salt Spring Island and in the Capital Regional District, as well as the activation of first responders by BC Emergency Health Services, local ground search and rescue volunteers, local volunteer fire departments and local emergency social services volunteers. EMBC will coordinate support for ferry evacuees during the Search and Rescue portion of the exercise and will support the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy as part of the environmental response portion of the exercise. Training and exercising are one of EMBC’s six strategic lines of effort, and Exercise Salish Sea provides a further opportunity to refine complex response plans and strengthen the EMBC’s coordination efforts with local, provincial and federal partners involved in disaster response.

Public Safety Canada

As a sponsor partner, Public Safety Canada will be part of the Regional Operations Centre, facilitating coordination with federal partners and agencies to ensure federal resources and staff are provided in a timely and effective manner.

Other participating organizations

Federal Agencies

Transport Canada
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Parks Canada

Provincial Ministries and Agencies

BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Health Emergency Management BC
Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat
BC Coroners Service
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Emergency Social Services

Local or Regional Agencies

Capital Regional District
Salt Spring Island Emergency Management
Galiano Island Emergency Management
Salt Spring Island Fire Department
Galiano Fire Department

Non-Government Organizations

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue
Canadian Red Cross
Salvation Army

First Nations Observers


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