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Detroit River marine training boosts cooperation and preparedness, say commanders

Sailors from the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve are conducting exercises on the Detroit River alongside various emergency service groups, aiming to respond effectively in a coordinated manner to water emergencies. Pictured on Apr. 20, 2024. (Bob Bellacicco/CTV News Windsor) Sailors from the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve are conducting exercises on the Detroit River alongside various emergency service groups, aiming to respond effectively in a coordinated manner to water emergencies. Pictured on Apr. 20, 2024. (Bob Bellacicco/CTV News Windsor)
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Interagency operability is taking centre stage at this year’s marine training on the Detroit River.

"We must refine our skills, communication, and procedures with local and international law enforcement agencies, as well as fire and medical," said HMCS Hunter Commander Richard Hillier.

In the spirit of readiness, sailors from HMCS Hunter and other Royal Canadian Naval Reserve divisions conducted exercises on the river Saturday alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, Windsor and LaSalle police, RCMP, LaSalle fire crews, Essex County EMS, and other emergency service groups, aiming to respond effectively in a coordinated manner to water emergencies.

"The key is to practice together and understand each other's methods," said LaSalle Police Const. Terry Seguin.

"We conduct cross-crew training to familiarize ourselves with each vessel's capabilities, operations and crew dynamics."

Within HMCS Hunter lies a crucial communications center, serving as a vital link in all scenarios and facilitating exercises for the crews.

"Tomorrow, we'll simulate a mass casualty scenario to test their skills, with the staff here presenting various challenges," said Soham Patel, HMCS Hunter A/SLt.

Saturday morning was dedicated to man-overboard scenarios, followed by spill containment, search and rescue patterns and fire suppression exercises in the afternoon.

Evening sessions are focusing on night navigation, while Sunday's agenda includes mass casualty drills.

Seguin said he believes this two-day practice session can significantly improve preparedness, especially with the Gordie Howe International Bridge set to open in 2025.

"I don’t want to exaggerate the security of that facility, but the security features of the structure are impressive," Seguin said.

"While not invulnerable, a new border crossing always introduces new security challenges in the water so that's another reason why, over the last few years, we've been doing this cross-crew training and everything we can to enhance our capabilities for response to a marine emergency."

Don Lucier, unit leader with Guardian Marine Rescue based in Colchester, said there’s always the risk of something happening around a structure — the Gordie Howe bridge not excluded — so it’s important to be ready.

"All the different agencies are learning how to work together and do what we need to do when the time comes," said Lucier.

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