On June 21, 2013, southern Alberta was forever changed as the largest flood to date washed through, destroying much that stood in its path. The Calgary Stampede’s blue bridge was washed away, the Infield tunnel and Indian Village were submerged, and buildings across Stampede Park were flooded. Though the results were devastating, the Stampede witnessed that the spirit of the city couldn’t be washed away.

Immediately following the flood, the Stampede took numerous measures to protect and build resiliency for Stampede Park. From 2013 to 2014, the Stampede gathered all information possible on the flood, implemented new flood-resilient design features on Stampede Park, updated their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and created a step-by-step outline document of how to handle flood situations. From the time the SOP was updated three years ago, Stampede employees have participated in live flood exercises annually.

“After exercises like this, we really feel more prepared,” said Calgary Stampede assets manager, park & facility services, Brian Hanley, referring to the emergency preparedness day Stampede employees took part in on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Almost 50 Park & Facility services employees, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, general labourers, administrative employees and team leads, participated in a practice live scenario for flood recovery on Stampede Park. “It took a lot of time, personnel and collaboration to bring the day together,” continued Hanley, “but the time spent preparing for the day, participating in the activities and regrouping afterwards was highly valuable.”

Flood Carts
Six prepared flood carts

Simultaneously, key members of the Stampede gathered for a tabletop exercise[1] of the same 1-100 level flood scenario. “This isn’t a one department or small group response.  An event of this scope and scale –which has the potential to cause significant negative impact to our operation-, requires an ‘all hand’s on-deck’ approach,” described Paul Burrows, security services manager, who oversees the Stampede’s Corporate Response & Resiliency Program (CRRP).

Stampede leaders from all departments across Stampede Park, from communications, people services, business services, sales & event management, security, parking, food & beverage, and more, discussed a play-by-play of what each department’s role would be during the 1-100 level flood scenario. These key crisis management employees discussed what to do as flood severity escalates. “Each business unit has a role. Whether it’s providing support for the initial response or assisting with the recovery and business continuity phase, everyone plays an important part,” added Burrows.

Burrows leading the tabletop exercise
Burrows leading the tabletop exercise

The same was true for the live exercise. “There are so many parts to practice, so every year we practise different tasks with different employees,” Hanley explained. “Our overarching goal is for everyone, no matter their job description, to be able to jump in and know exactly how to handle the situation.” This year, the Park & Facility Services employees practiced six of the approximately 25 measures outlined in the flood emergency preparedness procedure document.

One of the six tasks for 2017 was lowering the railings of the Stampede’s newest bridge, which replaced a bridge that was washed away in the 2013 flood. “This task was especially intriguing for our employees as this year was the first time we practised lowering the rails.” The new bridge was built specially with numerous flood resiliency features in mind. Lowering the rails will allow for water to flow smoothly over the bridge instead of being blocked and creating a dam situation. The employees also practiced removing the benches and planters along the bridge because in flood situations these items could cause damage or create blockages if the river carried them away.

Railings successfully lowered on the Stampede’s newest bridge
Railings successfully lowered on the Stampede’s newest bridge

Also in ENMAX Park and new for this year, the live exercise employees practised removing the panels from Sweetgrass Lodge. “They look like walls but are actually 4’x7’ panels,” described Hanley. Removing the panelled-walls of the stage area will allow for water to pass through smoothly and not create a blockage or dam.

The remaining of the exercises varied from staging flood carts, which are supplies transported to essential areas across Stampede Park, practising sandbagging doors to keep water out, activating sluice gates to keep water from coming up manholes, and fighting water with water. “We fill these large tubes with water and when they’re expanded they’re about three feet high and very durable. They can stop water in its path” said Hanley.

A washroom door sandbagged in ENMAX Park
A washroom door sandbagged in ENMAX Park

 

Stampede employees activating an E09 Sluice Gate
Stampede employees activating an E09 Sluice Gate

“After the live exercises are finished, we sit down and go over the day – and that’s when we really realize the small things that make the big differences,” Hanley continued. The same conclusion was found from Burrow’s tabletop exercise. “Even something as seemingly small as ‘gathering phone chargers’ is on our emergency preparedness list,” said Burrows. “And though people may chuckle at first, communication is essential in times of emergency so this small task is actually extremely essential.”

Feeling confident from the flood emergency preparedness day, Stampede employees are ready to take on the weather this year.

 

 

[1] Tabletop exercises have always been an annual tradition for the Stampede and cover a wide range of emergency situation topics. The flood tabletop is just one the larger series of emergency topics the CRRP covers.