A call from the Weyburn General Hospital came in near noon on Friday, prompting several local departments to jump into action in response. The caller reported a strong smell of gas inside the hospital, and emergency services were quickly on the scene. Constable Roy with the Weyburn Police Service shared how officers were able to assist with evacuating the 22 patients and several other staff members that were inside the building.
"We initially got the call that there was a gas release at the hospital, so we responded, and we assisted the other services," he explained. "So, you had the EMS on site, the Fire and Rescue on site, and they were in the process of evacuating everyone from the hospital. We helped with traffic control and coordinating buses to come up to the hospital and loading the patients in to take them to different locations."
When responding to an emergency call such as this, it is important for those parties responding to have clear foresight into their roles and responsibilities. It is impossible to prepare a set procedure for every possible scenario, but Constable Roy said that their understanding of the number one priority is what guided police efforts.
"Every circumstance is different, depending on the location or who's involved," he pointed out. "So basically, when we arrive, we just want to first: Protect the public. And then we're going to coordinate with others how to handle the incident. So, we just work together as a good team and try to effectively get everyone out of the building safely. The cold didn't help the situation, but we were able to help as much as possible."
The extreme cold certainly presented a unique challenge, as windchills reaching -40 Celsius would put those evacuating the building at risk. Officers instead organized efforts to transport the building's occupants to other locations in the city where they would be safe.
"We were able to coordinate with the school division to bring buses over for any patients that were able to walk, then we got people on the buses so that they could be transported to other places. We also had the Weyburn Care-a-van help out," added Roy. "The SHA used ambulances for patients that were maybe critical or needed to be transported by ambulance. It was a coordinated effort."
Police were able to sort the chaos of ensuring that evacuees would remain safe, while providing Fire and Rescue services the space they would need to investigate the building. Constable Roy credited the various departments involved for their ability to collaborate and maintain public safety.
"We just have a great bunch of people, everyone from the hospital to EMS to Fire and Rescue, so it's always easy to work with them," he affirmed. "We all have the same goal, just making sure that we're protecting the public and getting the job done effectively and efficiently."
Weyburn Fire Chief Trent Lee was later able to verify the source of the odor, following an investigation by the Weyburn Fire Department. The smell was not natural gas, as originally suspected, but was instead caused by a crude oil substance brought into the building on a patient's clothing. Lee stated that crude oil substances can produce incredibly powerful odors, which were spread throughout the hospital by the HVAC system making it difficult to determine the source of the smell.
More information regarding the status of the Weyburn General Hospital is to come as the SHA makes updates available.