Intense 1954 display shows that Ponoka is prepared for disasters

As a part of the gala five day celebration of Ponoka’s 50th Anniversary, the local Civil Defense Corp hosted a very authentic display

A large crowd gathered along 50 Street in Ponoka in August of 1954 to watch a realistic display staged by the local Civil Defense Corp to demonstrate their skills and preparedness in the event of a sudden disaster in our community. The line of stretchers on the street contained the many causalities who had been rescued from the ruins by the civil defense team

A large crowd gathered along 50 Street in Ponoka in August of 1954 to watch a realistic display staged by the local Civil Defense Corp to demonstrate their skills and preparedness in the event of a sudden disaster in our community. The line of stretchers on the street contained the many causalities who had been rescued from the ruins by the civil defense team

As a part of the gala five day celebration of Ponoka’s 50th Anniversary, the local Civil Defense Corp hosted a very authentic display of rescue and medical care plans to assure everyone in our bustling town and county that they are well prepared in the case of a sudden disaster. Featuring local medical, emergency, and safety personnel and volunteers from throughout the community the real-life two hour demonstrations featured instant response to the recovery and treatment of the injured, as well as the vivid and noisy presence of RCAF planes, bombs, fire-fighting, rescue teams, army troops, and much more.

The exercise went off very smoothly in front of over 500 local spectators, and prompted officials from Alberta Civil Defense to declare that it was the biggest such event that they had ever seen in Canada and that Ponoka had certainly been blessed with the best-trained CD Corps in the west. In less than two hours, beginning at 8 p.m., the Civil Defense Corp processed 50 casualties through reception, resuscitation, treatment, and follow-up care, all of which took place on the floor of the local arena that had been set up in sections to designate the various rooms of an emergency hospital. Throughout the procedure, there were stretcher cases and walking wounded representing a wide range of injuries that might have occurred during a natural (or man-made) disaster. Also on display were thousands of dollars worth of surgical instruments and equipment, all of which were permanently located and ready for instant use in the community.

All that was missing from this authentic medical support scene was the look of a real hospital and the smell of the antiseptic, quite simply because it is was a rapid make-do emergency set-up, which worked extremely efficiently amid the hustle and bustle of the 150 people who took part in the action. Dr. J.N.C. Byers, head of Health Services for the County of Ponoka kept up a running commentary on the various operations and procedures that were performed during the exercises, including the description of the various minor to serious wounds, how they are treated, and where they were to be transported for follow up care.

Meanwhile, the scene of the supposed disaster along 50 Avenue took on the drastic appearance on this warm summer evening of a virtual ‘battle-field’, with planes flying overhead and bombs exploding. Highlights included a real oil fire, ambulance tents, rescue crews attending to the rows of stretchers, along with wardens, police and fire-fighters, all in action together and wearing their designated helmets and uniforms. In command of the exercises were County Civil Defense Director Les. G. Sitters, with Ernie E. Ellis as deputy director, Bill Bowden as damage control officer, Wardens Director J. Sutherland, Welfare Services Operator Mrs. Andy Lowe, Medical and Health Officer Dr. J.N.C. Byers, First Aid Director Alvin Spelrem, and Chief Rescue Officer Jim Paterson. The supreme ‘team effort’ of the operation was also assisted by local service clubs, professionals, businesses, and over 150 hardy volunteers. Every community event such as this, no matter how important it may be, will always have its moments of humour, and that came when one of the volunteer casualties, who did not survive his injuries, requested that the ambulance attendants who were taking him over to the morgue to kindly stop at the canteen for a cup of coffee and a donut.

Follow up procedures for the Ponoka Civil Defense Corp in the community included ongoing training and safety programs, recruitment of new personnel in all areas, and regular public displays and exercises. An information survey will also be conducted by the CD Wardens through the 23 designated divisions in the town and districts, to assure that we will always be fully equipped and prepared long into the future if a disaster or sudden emergency should occur.