Be Ready for Anything! Emergency Preparedness Week 2021: A Message from the OAEM President

This year's Emergency Preparedness theme of "Emergency Preparedness: Be Ready for Anything" cannot be closer to home for many Emergency Managers.  While working through a familiar hazardscape, they show the meaning of resiliency by dealing with quickly evolving risks and priorities with limited resources.  


For the second year in a row, Emergency Preparedness Week occurs during a provincial declaration of emergency to stop the deadly spread of COVID-19. Like last year, first responders and frontline personnel met the challenges head-on, working tirelessly. Their hard work and dedication continue to shine as an example during the midst of the worst wave.   Organizations adapted quickly due to continual changes required to support the safety and well-being of Ontarians while responding to COVID-19.  Their hard work and diligence exemplified how managers actively followed all announcements to stay current and ensured their messages maximized the safety of the public and frontline workers. 


In particular, the healthcare sector experienced numerous challenges this past year. They converted existing units to be dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients, established testing sites and later vaccination clinics. They enacted surge support protocols for overall hospital operations and responded to the call of public health officials by supporting isolation sites and, in some cases, planning for the operationalization of field hospitals. Emergency Managers within hospitals had an overwhelming responsibility to support their organizations while their capacity diminished daily. Their work was made more challenging in light of non-COVID-19 emergencies that continued to be activated.  This was the case when London Health Sciences Centre activated its Code Orange procedures (mass casualty event) due to a partially collapsed building, dealing with a sudden influx of patients. Hospital Emergency Managers performed any task required, including acting as a screener and amended their procedures to maximize protection for responding personnel while providing the same exceptional standard of care for all Ontarians.  


Within public safety organizations, Emergency Managers maintained critical services like 9-1-1, even during outbreaks. Contingency plans for staffing, implementing pandemic measures,  and adapting to the changing needs of first responders and the public they serve are just a few of the ways these Emergency Managers have stepped up during the pandemic. 


The changing measures strained Municipal Emergency Managers and drastically altered their portfolios. A complex job became even more complicated.  Managers that wore dual hats, like Municipal Managers and the Chief's in charge of first responders, balanced the safety of their teams while providing emergency management services to their community.


Emergency Managers within Ontario and other parts of Canada had to be ready for anything and be prepared to become anyone to assist their organizations with an ongoing battle against COVID-19. Many of you were asked to fill the roles you were not familiar with, work longer hours, and do so without weekends. You made the necessary sacrifices to create plans faster than ever before to keep up with the ever-changing response requirements. OAEM would like to acknowledge and applaud the hard work of Emergency Managers across all sectors for your continued leadership and dedication during unprecedented times. We thank you for your commitment and hard work.   


This week, we will highlight a few exceptional Emergency Managers who have excelled throughout the response on our social media. We would also like to invite you to follow the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) on Twitter @OntarioWarnings and @ONsafety for information throughout the week. OFMEM is going to be promoting EP week online using the official hashtag #EPweek2021 / #SemainedelaSC2021. You can also use OFMEM's online public education resources, as well as the new Government of Canada EP Week resources, to help your communities, ministries, or organizations promote a culture of preparedness this coming EP Week and throughout the year. 


Katie Subbotina, OAEM President