More than 600 people – including first responders and simulated casualties – have signed up for a mock disaster emergency exercise on Thursday in and around Westminster Ponds.

People from about 15 community agencies including the London Police Service, Fire Department, Middlesex London Health Unit and London Hydro are being tested to see how city first responders react to a planned disaster – so that they're ready should a real one ever happen.

"It's quite complex and it's based on a real scenario," said Dave O'Brien, manager of the corporate security and emergency management division for the city.

"We can expect something like mass casualties and we may have to do evacuations or deal with things like structural issues within facilities or buildings. We are ensuring we are dealing with everything from extreme ends of a disaster right through to fruition."

Mock disaster

People from about 15 community agencies including the London Police Service, Fire Department, Middlesex London Health Unit and London Hydro are being tested to see how city first responders react to a planned disaster – so that they're ready should a real one ever happen.

O'Brien said the exercise could vary, anywhere from terrorism-related attacks, to hazardous waste spillage and even severe weather events.

The city has held a field exercise every five years, with indoor activities in between, for about two decades. In years past, emergency teams have responded to mock plane crashes and derailments.

Students and staff from Fanshawe College hopped on board on Thursday to help with simulated casualties and videography.

Mock disaster

Dave O'Brien, left, manager of the corporate security and emergency management division and Andre Beauegard, manager of emergency management for the city - preparing for a mock disaster on Thursday. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Raising the bar

O'Brien said the public shouldn't be alarmed over the commotion down at the city's west end that may see anywhere between 100 to 250 first responders gathered with about 30 emergency vehicles.

The day will begin with one major disaster with four events spread out throughout the afternoon – winding down around 3 p.m.

This year, O'Brien said the city is going above and beyond to ensure it's prepared for any disaster that comes its way.

"Every time we do these we are going to raise the bar a little bit so this time we're doing things we've never done. I'm not sure anybody in Ontario has ever done," said O'Brien.

 "In order for us to ensure we're testing our staff and our emergency team to the highest level, we don't tell anybody what's going to happen. It's a regular day."

People are advised to be extra cautious around the Westminster Ponds area on Thursday morning as emergency crews will be working away tackling a mock disaster.