Code Orange

We don’t know exactly how it started, but it continued with breaking of glass, crumpling of metal, and both horrified screams and deathly silence…all at the same time.

Shortly thereafter, radios burst to life inside vehicles across the city, while people not that different from you and I rushed to ambulances and fire trucks in response to urgent tones inside their stations.

At the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital, the early whispers of a major incident quickly became verified, a “Code Orange” or mass casualty alert was called, and the location was only five minutes away.

As police officers, firefighters, and paramedics converged to the Westboro station of the OCTranspo Bus Rapid Transitway, The Ottawa Hospital began to both rapidly empty and to fill up.

Contrary to what Hollywood likes to portray, there wasn’t a lot of yelling and screaming…in fact most of the conversation at the scene and in the hospital is quick, professional, and in normal tones.

The only hint that this isn’t a normal situation is in the purposeful motions of the people working, and in the tension in their voices and bodies.

The arrival of the flashing lights, and the “Code Orange” call over the hospital PA system doesn’t herald chaos, it brings the end of chaos.

There is an ugly beauty in the motion of uniforms, bunker gear, extrication equipment, ambulances, and fire trucks; ugly because people have been injured and killed, but beautiful in its own type of improvised choreography.

Three dead and dozens injured.

Hundreds of lives changed.

But through it all: Calm, Cool, and Collected voices bringing order back to chaos.


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