New emergency protocols for Whoop-Up Drive now in place
Lethbridge residents and motorists may recall the traffic incident in June this year that resulted in Whoop-Up Drive coming to a standstill for several hours.
The incident provided City staff the opportunity to conduct a substantial review of the Whoop-Up Drive Emergency Traffic Protocol. A revised protocol has now been approved and activated by the City Manager to provide an enhanced response in the event of an incident.
On Thursday, the Safety and Social Standing Policy Committee of City Council received the update as information.
The revisions aim to enhance emergency response procedures and ensure more efficient traffic management during critical and emergency situations. These changes are expected to improve overall safety and coordination along Whoop-Up Drive to ensure the movement of traffic during disruption.
“These changes will provide better communication between internal stakeholders and will enable faster activation of this protocol whenever it is needed, regardless of whether an incident occurs within or outside of normal business hours,” says Joel Sanchez, Director of Infrastructure Services. “We have identified opportunities for improvements after the event on June 28, and we were ultimately able to use the situation for these needed improvements.”
The revised protocol now more actively supports the following purposes:
- Provide two-way traffic on Whoop-Up Drive in the event one of the travel directions must be closed due to emergencies on the bridge deck or the approach lanes
- Provide maximum one-way movement in either direction across Whoop-Up Drive in the event of a mass evacuation on either side of the city
“Like any emergency management plan, this protocol is considered a living document,” says Greg Adair, Chief of Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services and Director of Emergency Management. “Next steps include conducting a tabletop exercise on the activation of this protocol. Any learnings from this or subsequent exercises and incident debriefs will be used to continually improve the protocol to better ensure that it works when we need it.”
The full Whoop-Up Drive Emergency Traffic Protocol can be viewed here.
- The late-afternoon traffic incident on June 28, 2023, that blocked westbound Whoop-Up Drive for several hours underscored the need to examine and improve this emergency traffic protocol
- The situation was made worse by a series of collisions soon afterward on the Highway 3 river crossing, which reduced its capacity as a detour when it was most needed. The impact to the community was significant, causing major traffic jams in and around the downtown area and leaving many West Lethbridge residents stranded for hours on the east side of the Oldman River
- An incident debrief was held in July 2023 with all internal stakeholders including Transportation, the Lethbridge Police Service, Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, Communications and Engagement and Emergency Planning & Risk Management
- The debrief identified opportunities to: clarify decision-making authority; improve inter-departmental and public communication; improve inter-departmental collaboration to improve speed of decision making and implementation of the protocol; and enable faster activation of this protocol whenever it is needed, regardless of whether an incident occurs within or outside of normal business hours