By Monique Rollin

Today I was fortunate to provide a brief webinar for OAEM on the importance of documentation and decision making in an Emergency Operations Centre.  I want to the thank OAEM for the opportunity and for their ongoing commitment to membership professional development and generous donation to Ontario Foodbanks on my behalf.   We are facing events never experienced before that that are testing our low-frequency, high-risk, high-demand situation training where impactful decisions need to be made in real time. I was able to remind the attendees the importance of planning, training, documenting and using a scribe to capture record and retain information during these major incidents.  

As a leader in an EOC, your scribe is an appointed Incident Management Team (IMT) member who produces an accurate, chronological written record of events that support the overall incident command process. They become your partner, support your situational awareness (“knowing what is going on around us”) and do more than take notes or capture events. A scribe becomes an integral part of your team and allows you to focus on processing information and make decisions. A trained scribe will assist you to be able to articulate in court and/or an inquest the actions, intelligence, and events that led to the decisions made and the rationale behind these decisions. They are organized, flexible, self-motivated, strategic thinkers who will assist you in managing actionable items and understand how to be confident and assertive when appropriate. 

The Ontario Association of Emergency Managers is pleased to offer ongoing professional development and ongoing learning opportunities. The previous “in person” Scribe Training Program for The Emergency Operations Centre is being redeveloped for online training and I look forward to being able to come to you in an online format soon. The slide deck from the webinar can be viewed at Documentation and Decision making in the EOC. I look forward to working with OAEM and its members to support their training needs. 

Wishing you health and resilience,

Monique Rollin

Monique Rollin Consulting Solutions Inc.

moniquerollin@sympatico.ca

By Steve Elliott

On behalf of the NGO Alliance of Ontario members, it gives me great pleasure to pass along the 2020-2021 Handbook (see link below) and EM Continuum Infographic.

In these two documents, you will find summaries of what each of our members do and what they can provide to you and your jurisdiction should you experience a disaster that overwhelms your jurisdictions’ capabilities. 

We would encourage you to familiarize yourselves with these and place them into your Emergency Response Plan’s ‘External Partners’ Annex for easy retrieval should the need arise. 

On behalf of the members of the NGO Alliance of Ontario, I would like to say how much of a pleasure it is to bring an efficient, effective and collaborative NGO presence to Ontario’s municipalities!

2020 NGO Alliance Infographic

2020-2021 NGO Alliance Handbook

By: Dave Poole and Christina Baker

When the term “pandemic” is mentioned, it garners various responses and impressions, depending on who you are. Obviously within the context of COVID-19, the word “pandemic” takes on a whole other meaning. But therein lies the crux – when you have conversations about risk, it takes on different meanings depending on who you are. That’s because risk is largely driven by perception and one’s past and present experiences that shape how you perceive and deal with uncertainties when making future decisions.

Fundamentally, when you weigh the factors associated with risk when making decisions, it comes down to two fundamental questions (but obviously there are many layers of more questions embedded within these two):

  1. How likely is “it” to occur (likelihood)?
  2. How bad can “it” get if “it” were to occur (impact)?

For a pandemic like COVID-19, what do you draw upon to make informed decisions to develop measures that appropriately balance risk and opportunities?

This got us thinking about how these macro-scale risks are viewed, which led us to look into current and past global risk reports published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), specifically the 2020, 2018 and 2016 editions. It was an interesting exercise and we wanted to share some of our impressions within this article.

The WEF Global Risk Reports identify the top 10 risks in terms of both “Likelihood” and “Impact”. When you prioritize the top 10 risks based on pairing up “Likelihood” and “Impact”, the following risks are identified (in no particular order) for 2020, 2018 and 2016:

2020 WEF Global Risk Report2018 WEF Global Risk Report2016 WEF Global Risk Report
Extreme Weather
Climate Action Failure
Natural Disaster
Biodiversity Loss
Human-made environmental disaster
Cyberattacks
Water Crisis
Global Governance Failure

“Infectious diseases” was ranked 10th in terms of impact but did not make the top 10 in terms of likelihood
Extreme Weather
Natural Disaster
Cyberattacks
Climate Action failure
Large-scale Involuntary Migration






“Infectious diseases” was ranked 10th in terms of impact but did not make the top 10 in terms of likelihood
Large-scale Involuntary Migration
Climate Action Failure
Water Crises       








“Infectious diseases” was ranked 8th in terms of impact but did not make the top 10 in terms of likelihood

When we looked at the overall likelihood and impact scores for “infectious diseases” in the 2018 and 2020 WEF reports, it was perceived to be less likely to occur in 2020 when compared to 2018, but was expected to be more impactful in 2020 when compared to 2018. From a risk management perspective, the general view is that you tend to put a priority on preparedness measures ready to deploy when the event manifests itself for higher impact/lower likelihood risks. However, perception versus reality can skew what you believe is considered appropriate – as mentioned in past articles, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

We’re not medical health experts so we cannot speak to the validity of measures taken to date – both those that reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 becoming a pandemic and those that reduce the impact to the public. What the 2020 WEF report shows is that a global pandemic was not perceived to be that impactful, when compared to other risks that the respondents commented on such as “Climate action failure” or “Cyberattacks”.

The other interesting element of the 2020 WEF report is the Global Risks Interconnections Map – a systems-based approach to visualize how and to what degree these individual risks are potentially related to each other. We noted 3 clusters of interest:

Globally, these risks are perceived by the respondents to be very important, both in terms of their perceived likelihood to occur and potential impact. Although “Infectious diseases” was perceived by respondents to be within the top 10 based on impact, the connections with other risks were not perceived to be “strong” as visually represented in the Interconnections Map.  

We speculate that part of the reason the above-referenced three clusters are top of mind for respondents is that in some form, these risks are already manifesting themselves – this is indicative of the fact that individually, the risks associated with the three clusters tend to be in the upper right hand quadrant of the Impact/Likelihood map. It also, in our opinion, lends itself to how perception of risk is shaped by past and present experiences.

The issue of climate change, for example, has been at the forefront of global and political conversations for quite some time and its effects are largely understood and accepted among the scientific community. Perhaps this, coupled with incidents of experienced flooding, wildfires and other natural disasters, has shaped a new perception of and familiarity to climate risk, leading to a wider acceptance of a climate change reality among individuals, communities and governments alike. Due to this familiarity and current manifestation of climate change in our daily lives, it may have been easier or more natural for the respondents to identify linkages between climate action failure and biodiversity loss or food crises, for example. 

Conversely, “infectious disease”, on the scale we are experiencing now through COVID-19, is unfamiliar territory. In the Interconnections Map, respondents identified multiple connections between “infectious disease” and other risks, although these interactions were not given much weight in terms of the strength of their connections. This could in part be due to a lack of experience with an infectious disease of pandemic proportions or it could be due to our lack of understanding of the deeply complex and interconnected systems and infrastructure that comprise our global society. Either way, COVID-19 has thus far exposed us to our own vulnerabilities and has made evident the connections between infectious disease and some of our most critical infrastructure. 

We have seen the impacts that COVID-19 have had on health care systems, economies and perhaps in the near future we will see impacts to the food and agriculture sector. While these connections are being made on a global scale, we are also learning that the impacts of infectious disease affect each region of the globe differently and vary drastically depending on the political, social and economic systems in place. 

Over the course of the next few months, there may be more connections made. In the meantime, we must learn from these connections as they are revealed to us and fashion for ourselves a new understanding of this risk from which we can learn to take a systematic approach to managing it. In isolation, focusing on an individual risk increases the chances of cascading and escalating risk factors being missed. The nature and extent of these interrelationships is important now more than ever, especially as we begin to transition to normal routines and the resumption of services as COVID-19 becomes more manageable.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic does raise overarching questions for us. Taking into consideration what has been currently identified within the WEF Global Risk reports – what’s next and are we prepared?

By Heather Rissanen, M.Sc. (Frontline Resilience)

Rather than focusing on lifestyle restrictions due to COVID-19, let’s focus on what we can do for our health. The following are suggested to promote health and nutrition during these times of social distancing.

1. Prepare a supply of nutrition-packed foods Focus on nutrition-packed foods that remain fresh for one week or more, those that can be frozen, and those that have an extended shelf-life, such as non-perishables and pantry items. Examples include: • Breads: Corn tortillas, whole grain breads, bagels, wraps, and granola • Grains: Oatmeal, pasta, rice, quinoa, and pizza dough • Fruits: Sturdy fruit (apples, citrus fruits) fresh, dried, frozen, or canned in water or juice • Vegetables: Sturdy veggies (broccoli, potatoes, carrots, onions, squash) fresh or frozen • Beans and legumes: Canned (black, chickpeas, kidney), and dry beans • Sauces and spreads: Tomato pasta sauce, salsa, hummus, and peanut or nut butter • Soups and broths: Shelf-stable cartons and cans • Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yogurt (plain or greek), and dairy-free options • Eggs: Fresh or egg whites in cartons • Nuts and seeds: Assorted nuts as available, and seeds, such as chia seeds and flaxseeds • Meats: Meats to freeze in portions along with ground meats, patties, and meatballs • Seafood: Canned tuna or salmon, frozen ready to cook fish fillets, freeze fresh portions Use online shopping with ship-to-home options. Take necessary precautions and limit visits to stores.

2. Think nutrition Some additional considerations to promote healthy and balanced nutrition are: • Limit consumption of frozen and prepared meals and tempting yet nutritionally empty foods • Consider meatless meals such as chilli prepared with beans in lieu of beef • To help with keeping costs down, fresh fruits and vegetables can be substituted with canned and frozen options. Choose low-sodium packed-in-water items for a healthier choice. • Make large quantities to have healthy leftovers, such as soups, stews, and chilli • Learn new recipes, especially those with few ingredients

3. Maintain routine Some considerations to help maintain routine include: • Consistent wake time and bedtime that follows your normal schedule • Eat meals at regular times • Maintain a consistent exercise schedule • Remain engaged in hobbies and social connectedness with family, friends, and colleagues while adhering to social distancing. Consider video-conferencing and web platforms to keep in touch. 1-833-FRONTLN (376-6856) www.frontlineresilience.ca

4. Stay active Canadian guidelines advise that we should engage in at least 2.5 hours of “moderate to vigorous” aerobic physical activity each week. Preferably this will take place in increments of 10 minutes or more, with 2 sessions per week of muscle strength training. If you are healthy and are able to do so, the following tips can help you safely exercise while avoiding the gym and maintaining social distancing during COVID-19. If you are using any equipment, be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect it before and after each use.

a) Spend time outdoors • Go for a walk, hike, bicycle ride, or dog walk • Engage in outdoor work whether yard work, gardening, or planting • Consider outdoor adventures, such as a scavenger hunt with your kids or geocaching • Enjoy simple sports such as tossing a ball but clean your hands and refrain from touching your face • Set-up an obstacle course in your backyard • Attend a local park while maintaining precautions

b) Exercise independently or with adequate space • Choose non-contact activities, such as hiking and biking, to uphold social distancing • Meet up at the destination to avoid close quarters, such as carpools

c) Focus on general fitness and wellbeing • You can focus on core strengthening and cardiovascular conditioning without compromising social distancing by using home gyms, home-based video workouts, and web-based exercise programs • Most fitness centres are sharing online resources you can use, such as daily workouts that can be done at home with minimal or no equipment • Fitness applications are available online (e.g., “The 7 minute Workout”) along with online resources such as www.ymca.ca, www.cbc.ca, Instagram (e.g., m2mbarrie, thebodycoach, Natasha.oceane) • Participate in yoga, as there are countless instructional yoga programs online and most are free

d) Use your body weight • Use your own body weight with a circuit type program for an effective way to maintain strength and aerobic health in a short period of time without equipment • Bodyweight workouts incorporate a variety of movements that do not require equipment and include exercises such as burpees, squats, lunges, pushups and yoga. • Gradually increase frequency, intensity and duration to avoid overuse injuries.

e) Connect to an online fitness community • Social media channels can help to stay in touch with friends and teammates • Engage in online challenges with friends, coworkers, or family members to encourage motivation and accountability in your fitness goals. Some examples include number of steps, running a set distance for time, number of pushups in a given period of time, etc. • Consider sharing your hopes for returning to normal activity as soon as safely possible 

By Dr. Lori K. Gray, C.Psych. and Amanda Plunkett, MA, RP 

Courtesy Frontline Resilience

1. Inform Public health messaging during a pandemic is focused on information and assurance for the public. In contrast, first responders mentally prepare by forecasting “worst case” scenarios. Though mentally helpful, it can result in a discrepancy between how first responders and their families perceive risk. First responders while on the frontline, need to remain focused for their own health and safety. As such, it is important that concerns about the family’s health and safety are proactively addressed. Spouses should be fully informed of the inherent risk, safety measures to be undertaken, and their importance. The same should be provided when communicating to children in appropriate ways.

2. Precautionary measures Many first responder families find it helpful to take proactive, precautionary measures; that is, measures implemented in the home to mitigate potential exposure to the virus. Examples include but are not limited to cleaning routines, ensuring potentially exposed materials (e.g., uniforms, boots, lunch bags, watches) are kept out of the home, and maintaining social distancing within the home. It is helpful to make pre-arrangements should the first responder be required to enter self isolation. Arrangements may include a separate living space, such as sleeping quarters, washrooms, and meals. Prepare back-up plans in the event that one or both of you become ill or depleted.

3. Respite Throughout a pandemic first responders can anticipate being taxed both physically and emotionally. It is imperative the first responder has adequate downtime, sleep, and a healthy diet. This may include downtime upon returning home, protected sleep, nutritional foods on hand, and meals prepared before a block of shifts. For those in a relationship, spend time together as a couple, as reasonable, ensuring the time is mutually supportive. First responders should achieve balance between blocks of shifts by providing the significant other with opportunities for respite and assistance as is reasonable.

4. Communication First responder families should maintain collaborative communication appropriate to the situation. Communication while serving on the frontline may be sporadic and limited. Many families find it helpful to have a brief, 5-minute phone call during the commute home with the remainder of the drive set aside for mental respite. Parents should schedule designated time to communicate in private with additional time allocated for family communication. In the event the first responder is involved in a situation of elevated risk, spouses, partners, and significant others appreciate being informed and reassured as soon as possible. Should precautions need to be taken in the home, inform the family as early as possible – and prior to arrival. 1-833-FRONTLN (376-6856) www.frontlineresilience.ca

5. Clarify priorities First responder families should be cognizant of priorities during a pandemic. Safety, security, and basic needs are of the utmost importance. Other commitments may need to be temporarily deferred. Limit media exposure to what is essential. Eliminate activities that unnecessarily increase exposure risk. This includes non-essential activities outside the home, such as attendance at social events. It also includes inviting potentially exposed persons into your home, when other options for keeping in touch are available to avoid exposure. Regrettably, non-essential visits to family members outside the home who may be at increased risk due to age or underlying health conditions should be postponed. This is not simply to protect the core first responder family unit – it is a priority to protect others you care about from inadvertent exposure to the virus as well. Whenever possible, exercise safe alternatives. Use online shopping and ship-to-home options when available. Limit online shopping to essential items while monitoring and curbing spending. When isolated at home, people can become inclined to increase spending on spontaneous items. When shopping in stores is essential, limit visits and take necessary precautions. Keep in contact with friends and family by telephone, text, and via online chat applications such as FaceTime and Skype.

6. Adapt Focus on maintaining a healthy outlook and resiliency for yourself and your family. Adapt to the fullest extent possible. Despite social distancing, many options remain for upholding a healthy diet, exercise, and fulfilling lifestyle. Additional guidelines are provided to follow this document to help in these areas. First responders may incur unanticipated end-of-shift overtime, scheduling changes, and may be unable to help at home due to isolation requirements. Focus on shared resolution and mutual support. The division of responsibilities at home is unlikely to be 50/50 during a pandemic but this is temporary – even if for an extended duration.

7. Coparent The focus should be on coparenting, regardless of whether your family is united or separated. Be consistent and developmentally appropriate in your explanation of the pandemic to children, parenting approaches, and adherence to measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Set aside conflict entirely or until a much later time – if possible, after the pandemic has resolved and all have had an opportunity for rest and recuperation. This is a time to work together.

8. Appreciation Creating a supportive family environment and helping it to flourish is a two-way street – a responsibility shared by all members of the family. First responders should demonstrate they value the contributions, role, and sacrifices made by those they care about. Similarly, spouses, partners, and significant others should value first responders for serving our community and their efforts to support the family. 

By Dr. Lori K. Gray, C.Psych. and John Snider, B.Sc., B.Ed. (Frontline Resilience

1. You! This guideline is directed to those who will provide mental health support to first responders. Before you read on, appreciate this starts with you. You serve on the frontline and share the same concerns of exposure, community spread, and its implications. On top of that, you are supporting others. If your goal is to care for others, you can only do that insofar as you care for yourself. Depleting yourself in service to others does not best serve first responders in need of support. Care for yourself as well.

2. Understand the psychology Anticipate that first responders’ stress will exceed the objective risk of contracting COVID-19. Even when the risk for contracting COVID-19 is low, first responders may experience significantly greater levels of stress. Each first responder’s level of stress will be determined by the level of threat he/she perceives along with his/her anticipation of what is to come. This has the potential to be somewhat mitigated by the extent to which first responders feel protected and supported at work and at home.

3. Stress can increase exponentially The invisible risks of COVID-19 have the potential to exponentially increase first responder stress. Examples include persons who carry the virus but do not manifest symptoms and the presentation of COVID-19, which makes it difficult to discern from a cold or flu. These unknowns create an invisible threat, which increases the first responders’ fear of unknowingly contracting and transmitting the virus.

4. Timely check-ins First responders potentially exposed to COVID-19 require expedient outreach. Outreach should be provided from each of the following: 1) Rapid health screening and direction, 2) mental health support, and 3) support from colleagues, families, and friends.

5. Frequent check-ins First responders in isolation should receive support and communication on a continued basis. It is helpful for first responders to be advised of when they will next hear from someone and how to access support in the interim. This support should be available for their spouse and family as well.

6. Monitor prognostic risk Monitor indicators of more severe mental health impact, including but not limited to symptom severity, level of functioning, level of distress, and sleep disturbance. 1-833-FRONTLN (376-6856) www.frontlineresilience.ca

7. Clinical oversight Emergency services are shoring up additional resources for COVID-19, such as increased staffing. The stress experienced by first responders is expected to amplify as community spread progresses, risk of transmission increases, and first responder depletion sets in. Arrange for additional resources for your peer support team – specifically, a mental health professional to consult to the team. Have community mental health professionals ready to receive transfers of care from your team. Arrange mutual aid from peer support teams in less impacted areas.

8. Proactive transfer of care Proactively transfer care to community mental health professionals. First responder mental health needs will increase and have the potential to escalate to crisis. Peer support teams will be taxed with an influx while balancing their frontline duties. Priority triage should be given to first responders with greater mental health needs, such as those in isolation as well as those with higher acuity, pre-existing or comorbid mental health conditions. Mental health services should be delivered via webcam to ensure those in isolation receive support while adhering to social distancing measures. Mental health professionals should ensure knowledge of COVID-19, emergency operations amidst pandemics, and first responder mental health.

9. Have on hand key contacts Be prepared to have on hand any additional contacts that may be needed by first responders and their families. Examples include but are not limited to health resources (e.g., virus testing sites, public health information sources), family support (e.g., spousal and family counselling), and practical needs (e.g., financial counselling).

10. Be mindful of the home environment Be mindful that the implications of a pandemic can increase stress in the home environment. This might include the impact of social distancing, fears of virus transmission, extended hours of work, physical and mental fatigue, resource depletion, and exacerbation of pre-existing tensions.

11. Chose interventions accordingly First responders who are concerned about their health and essential resources for themselves and their families are not in a position to engage in insight-oriented treatment modalities. The focus will be upon basic needs (e.g., health and essential resources), practical support, and foundational coping. 

By Lisa Harripersad, Front Line Resilience

As the impact of COVID-19 grows, your children may have some information and many questions. During this time of social distancing, school closures, changes Lisa Harripersad in work arrangements, and emphasis on hygiene, it is important that we help our children understand and manage as best they can.

1. Communicate with your children Communicating with your children about COVID-19 may feel challenging. The following tips may help facilitate the conversation between parents and children.

a) Check your anxiety Children are perceptive. When children observe caregivers feeling unsafe, they can take on caregivers’ stress. Process your own feelings about how the virus is impacting you in advance of conversations with your children. This may mean talking to your partner, a friend or a therapist before engaging in that conversation with your child. Draw upon coping skills you used in the past and teach adaptive coping to your children.

b) Validate children’s feelings Validate children’s fears – do not dismiss them. Provide reassurance, validate feelings, and establish a sense of safety but do not mislead. Express your understanding of their fear, confusion, or stress and address their feelings as best you can with the knowledge you have. Invite them to share feelings with you verbally and also through journaling. Remember that this will be a continuous process.

c) Developmentally appropriate conversations Conversations should be geared to the age and developmental level of each child. Media exposure should be limited and also age and developmentally appropriate. Refrain from inundating younger children with excess information or information that is difficult to comprehend. Provide all children, especially older children, with an opportunity to be heard and have questions addressed. If you don’t know the answer to a question posed by your child, be honest and help them find the information.

2. Focus on what we can do Focus on teaching children what we can do rather than what is beyond our control. Teach good hygiene and social distancing. Explain their importance, practice these principles with your child so that they become automatic, and model these behaviours for your children – they’re always watching. Wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds (or sing Happy Birthday twice), keep hands away from faces, and cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or a tissue. Maintain appropriate distance from others and ensure that children when greeting others refrain from embraces and high fives. Get creative, such as stamping each child’s hand with ink and challenging them to wash it off by days end. 1-833-FRONTLN (376-6856) www.frontlineresilience.ca

3. Clarify the importance of precautions Ensure children understand the importance of the precautions for their health. The delivery should be informational and rational without magnifying fear. Some children may benefit from understanding the precautions and safeguards undertaken in the workplace to protect their first responder parent(s).

4. Model behaviour and coping Monitor your thoughts, mood, and outlook for the wellbeing of yourself and your children. Be watchful of negative thinking and catastrophizing. Ensure that you are reasonable and coping adaptively. Monitor your behaviour and ensure it adheres to values of integrity and community. This is an opportunity to teach and instil strong values for your children. Uphold community precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, refrain from resource hoarding, and be conscientious of others. Show value and appreciation for the contributions of frontline responders.

5. Incorporate routine Structure, routine, and predictability help to alleviate children’s anxieties. As with school, establish a schedule that incorporates your children’s interests and comprehensively addresses their needs. Ensure this is a collaborative process so that everyone feels invested in the schedule.

6. Provide enrichment Incorporate within your routine, continued opportunities for growth and development. It is important that children continue to expand their horizons throughout the pandemic, which can also help to reduce behavioural issues that have the potential to arise due to boredom and lack of stimulation. Several web-based resources offer free, helpful educational content. Many school boards are providing curriculum access online. Additional sources include the websites such as edhelper.com and scholarschoice.ca under teacher resources. Several attractions are offering live webcam footage such as the San Diego Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium, and many sources offering online tutorials, such as ArtShine, Cosmic Yoga, and cooking lessons.

7. Fulfilling time together Spending quality time together with your children will provide a sense of safety and belonging that all children need – even more so in times of crisis. It is important that children experience a sense of cohesion and enjoyment within their family unit. There are several options that can be reasonably achieved throughout the pandemic. Outdoor activities should be commonplace and might include activities such as gardening, gathering leaves, observing nature and wildlife, as well as family walks, hikes, and bicycle rides. Several indoor activities can also be incorporated into your daily routine, such as online family yoga, spring cleaning, starting an indoor seed garden, board games, and fostering friendships through FaceTime, Skype, and video conferencing. 

By Kristian Voycey, RN Psychotherapist, Frontline Resilience

COVID-19 is a large-scale outbreak that has greatly increased morbidity and mortality over a wide geographic area with significant economic and social disruption. As a leader in the response to COVID-19 you have great potential to support dedicated frontline responders while mitigating the spread of the virus and impacting community survivability. 

Leadership will be faced with a multitude of priorities, difficult decisions, and constrained resources. Effective leadership is paramount, supporting and navigating your teams through mitigation and evolving courses of action. Adaptations will be made while former priorities and plans are placed on hold for incidental management. Members of your team may require delegation of authority to step into temporary roles that may be unfamiliar to them. Guidance, engagement, and support of your team is a must.

1. Resourcing

Teams can be distressed and frustrated by rapidly depleting resources. Ensure – as far as possible – that ample resources are available through continual restocking. Teams should not be preoccupied by the potential for resource depletion or concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE), such as direction to use PPE sparingly or fears about the adequacy of PPE to protect against the threat. This holds true whether fears are real or perceived.

2. Protect your team

The safety of your team is of the utmost importance. They need to be absolutely certain that their safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of your decision making. This includes both their physical and emotional safety. Exemplified within this is your ability to demonstrate your dedication to proactively protecting your team. Examples include communities that have highlighted their values to protect staff and the public by progressively moving to a work-from-home arrangement for both essential and non-essential staff. 

3. Keep your team informed

Teams need to be able to count on you for timely, accurate information. This need increases exponentially as our knowledge of – and the spread of – COVID-19 expands. Teams need confidence that you will keep them fully informed, particularly when the information results in new, safe practice requirements and precautions that are essential to their health and safety.

Maintain effective, collaborative communication. Address concerns and questions as they arise. In challenging times throughout this pandemic, input from the team should be understood as value added, welcomed, and supported. If not already built into your operational cycle, provide regularly scheduled briefings or huddles with your team and conduct regular check-ins. Also be sure to check-in with team members when they themselves – or one of their loved ones – is facing increased stress, whether it is a health concern or a psychological impact.  

4. Stay connected, support your team 

Team members will be working long hours, contending with physical and emotional strain, and concerned for their loved ones throughout what will likely be a protracted pandemic. Provide rotating breaks and healthy downtime to prevent physical and mental fatigue. Afford autonomy where possible and an opportunity for team members to effect positive outcomes to foster their resiliency throughout this public health emergency. 

Ensure that proactive, mental health support is integrated in order to foster continued health and performance throughout the pandemic. Establish resources for immediate, specialized mental health care should a member of your team experience a mental health crisis or otherwise need support. 

Engage your team, building relationships and demonstrating you truly value the people you’re working with. At the forefront should be team members who are in isolation.  

5. Stay abreast of developments

Maintain your forward focus and growth mindset. Stay apprised of evolving evidence, best practices, and progressive developments in the field. Be sharply focused on your target – the preservation of life – while remaining grounded in realistic expectations.

6. For team members directly impacted

Hard lessons were learned from first responders quarantined during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) emergency. Many were physically isolated, but also emotionally and socially cut off as well. Countless stories have been told of supplies simply left in driveways and on doorsteps with little or no communication with the quarantined individual. Relationships were damaged and hard feelings resonated for years after the crisis ended. As leaders it is imperative that we demonstrate our utmost support for team members effected in the following ways:

  • Immediate notifications to team members after a potential exposure
  • Timely initial check-ins with first responders in isolation, and ongoing contact throughout isolation
  • Ensure that support is made available to the effected first responder as well as their family
  • Provide ample supplies needed by the effected first responder and their families
  • Express concern directly to team members who have loved ones impacted by COVID-19 and other psychosocial challenges that increase the strain upon them

Distancing doesn’t mean isolation. Isolation doesn’t mean abandonment.  

It is paramount that leaders remain sharply focused on the wellbeing and welfare of their teams. Your teams need you – and they need you to be well. Take care of yourself throughout the pandemic. Running on empty is a survival strategy, but not a sustainable course of action for leaders. Even more so through what will likely be a protracted pandemic such as the current COVID-19 health emergency.

By Magda Sulzycki

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to organizations around the world. While many unknowns still abound, one thing is certain: organizations and our communities at large will be forever changed. 
As we near the end of the first infection wave, now is the time to take stock of our responses to this incident, and to introduce changes to both restore operations as well as to build resiliency for the predicted second wave. To serve in this capacity, Alisha Khan and I, emergency and business continuity (EM/BC) professionals working in Ontario’s critical infrastructure, established 1033. 
1033—named after the radio code used to signal an emergency—is a network of volunteer EM/BC professionals stepping up to provide their services to select organizations, free of charge. After being matched, our professionals work collaboratively to resolve the current challenges for their assigned organizations that are no doubt facing in these trying times.Not-for-profit and social services are our current priority. These are some of the hardest hit and most in need, as they continue to serve the most vulnerable members of our communities. A collapse in their network would be catastrophic for us all, and we have the tools and skills to not only mitigate this, but also to fortify these organizations for future responses.We are inviting members of the OAEM to register for this work directly via 1033.ca. You can reach us directly at info@1033.cawith any questions.

By Ali Asgary, Associate Professor, Disaster & Emergency Management, York University (asgary@yorku.ca)

During major disaster and emergency events significant number of individuals known as Spontaneous Volunteers (SVs) offer or provide labor in an unplanned fashion. The pool of the SVs has been expanded in recent years to include not only the traditional SVs but also the digital SVs who provide their time remotely through the cyberspace. SVs play a critical role in responding to major disasters, particularly when the emergency managemnet agencies are overwhelmed. For example, SVs played a significant role during the 2013 flooding in Calgary and Southern Alberta, 2014 shootings in Moncton and Ottawa, and 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray. However, optimum use of these great resources has been a significant challenge that exist in Canada and other countries. Reviews conducted after some of the recent Canadian cases reveals that in most cases tracking, coordinating, and directing SVs are challenging which may limit the effective use of these potential resources. The current COVID-19 pandemic once again brought the spontaneous volunteers into the spotlight. 

To study, address and find effective solutions for these challenges and opportunities, Dr. Ali Asgary and Professor Ken McBey from the Disaster & Emergency Management (York University) in partnership with the NGO Alliance of Ontario (Steve Elliot) and the City of Brampton’s Office of Emergency Management (Alain Normand) are working on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded project titled “Spontaneous Volunteers Management during major emergencies in Ontario communities”. The main aim of this project is to study spontaneous volunteers during major emergencies to develop a spontaneous volunteer management system and application that can be used by Ontario communities and relevant agencies. 

As part of this project a questionnaire survey has been designed and approved by York University’s office of research ethics. We invite all emergency managers in Ontario to participate in this very important and timely study by completing this questionnaire. As a professional emergency manager, your insights, experiences, and opinion about how to use an integrate spontaneous volunteers in existing emergency management structures are very important. We very much hope to incorporate your collective knowledge into the development of a ‘spontaneous volunteer management system’.

To participate in this study please go to this link that is hosted in York University’s ArcGIS Online organizational account.

https://arcg.is/0uuH0v

The findings of this study will be published in OAEM websites.

Thank you all for your hard work during this demanding pandemic situation and for your attention to this study.