Emergency response and prevention operations

A soldier removes fallen tree branches from a frozen tree.

January 31, 2017. Sapper Alex O'Halloran, a member of 4th Artillery Regiment (General Support), removes fallen tree branches and damaged trees during Operation LENTUS in the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick on January 31, 2017. (Photo: WO Jerry Kean, 5 Cdn Div Public Affairs)

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is often called on by the Government of Canada to respond to crises in Canada and in other parts of the world. Crises might involve forest fires, floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters. The CAF may be called for help when civil authorities are overwhelmed. They may also call because they need the CAF’s unique military equipment and skills.

Helping prevent emergencies

The CAF runs an avalanche control operation each year in Rogers Pass, B.C. The operation is in support of Parks Canada. Artillery crews fire rounds at mountain slopes to release small areas of unstable snow. This is done in a precise way and helps prevent larger, uncontrolled avalanches. This mission is called Operation PALACI.

Responding to emergencies in Canada

Emergencies are managed first at the local level; for example, by first responders such as:

  • medical professionals and hospitals;
  • fire departments;
  • the police; and
  • municipalities.

Local authorities who need assistance request it from provincial or territorial governments. The province or territory may seek assistance from the federal government if an emergency escalates beyond their capabilities. That federal response is managed by Public Safety Canada, who may ask the CAF for additional help. When the CAF is called to respond to emergencies in Canada, it responds under Operation LENTUS.

Responding to emergencies abroad

The Government of Canada may also ask the CAF to provide disaster assistance and humanitarian response to an emergency abroad. This may involve sending the DART. The request is often made by the country affected by disaster. The recommendation to deploy the DART is made jointly by:

  • Global Affairs Canada; and
  • The Department of National Defence.

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