BRANDON, MB — At the end of each day, after the cowboys had wowed the record-breaking crowds, fireworks lit up the skies at Calgary’s 100th annual Stampede and two Brandon University students were on hand to ensure everyone’s safety. The fourth-year students in Applied Disaster and Emergency Services (ADES) — Greg Bartlett and Kristy Hill — were assigned positions in the launch site or “hotzone”, to oversee that all safety precautions had been taken and that rules were being followed. Bartlett discovered this chance for real-world experience through the International Association of Emergency Managers, Canadian Students’ Chapter.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s huge! This has been absolutely exhilarating. It’s made my Stampede!” said Bartlett, who was the safety coordinator for the fireworks shows and is also working with the Calgary Fire Department for the summer. “I was asked by the Stampede (organizers) to be the agency rep in the emergency operations centre. That’s been the icing on the cake.”
Bartlett is a mature student who returned to post-secondary studies after several years of working as a firefighter, a fire-training specialist and a wildfire prevention officer.
“Being an ADES student at BU has been the best decision,” he said. “The program is so needed in the community. We (BU students) are able to walk in and fit into an emergency operations centre and take direction without needing a lot of clarification.”
Having taken a leave from her practicum — working as a volunteer fire fighter in her hometown of Warren, MB — Hill really enjoyed putting into practice the theory she learned in her ADES courses.
“This was a good opportunity to see emergency management in use, at a big event. I don’t think people understand all the things that could go wrong when (thousands of) people attend, especially in the heat,” Hill said. “This experience has really opened my eyes. Even after studying emergency management, I didn’t really understand the full capacity of what has to be done for an event such as this. There really is a lot of planning and a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on, especially in risk management. I feel that my classes have prepared me for this and I’ve felt confident with what I know.”
Joining Bartlett and Hill for both weekends of the Centennial Stampede is Linda Pic, a graduate of the BU ADES program, who had previously studied atmospheric science. Originally from Virden, Pic’s focus during the Stampede was to determine if there are lightening strikes within 50 kilometres of the five fireworks launch sites — from the Stampede grounds as well as each of the city’s four corners. Her expertise lies in the monitoring of radar levels, the newest of satellite imagery as well as a specialized program from the Weather Network and Environment Canada that combines Google Earth with atmospheric lightening detection.
“We shoot (the fireworks) both weekends and the only issue we had was Thursday night (July 5), during the dry run. We had two cracks, then we were fine,” said Pic, who is now an emergency response coordinator for Visser Consulting in Calgary and who helped out Bartlett in his first year when she was a teacher-assistant in the ADES program. “The Stampede’s been a little unreal. There are hundreds of thousands of people. I’ve run a lot of events, but nothing’s compared to this. Knowing that I tried to make the Stampede that much more memorable made it worth the long nights.”
Dr. Balfour Spence, of the ADES program at Brandon University, was thrilled to hear about Bartlett, Hill and Pic and their work at the Calgary Stampede.
“I think this is absolutely fantastic. This was an excellent opportunity for them. In fact, it’s something that we, in the department, encourage. That allows them to have the kind of hands-on experience that they don’t necessarily get in the classroom,” he said, adding that the connection between the three students is also valuable. “That kind of networking is critical for what we do. It augurs well for the department and reflects well on the University also.”
The 100th edition of the Calgary Stampede came to an end on July 15, at which time the remaining fireworks were set off to entertain attendees with an unprecedented 25-minute show. Throughout the Stampede, Bartlett, Hill and Pic managed their roles very well, even tackling additional tasks to help out, and made sure the viewers’ memories were wonderful ones.
“Everything went without a hitch. This was probably the biggest fireworks show in Canada — not just in the park, but also four locations in the city. There were thousands of fireworks. We were in the seven figures for fireworks. So, the (ADES) students proved to be very, very helpful,” said Kevin Stanger, the Stampede’s environment and event safety manager, who added that though this was the first time BU ADES students participated in fireworks safety, he hopes to invite other students in the program to help out in the future. “They were instrumental in making my side of the (event) a success.”