Following another highly successful Conference and Annual General Meeting, the OAEM is proud to once again donate to the Canadian Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts in lieu of providing gifts to our conference speakers.


In 2016, the Association donated $500 on behalf of our conference speakers with the donation going to support the Canadian Red Cross as they responded to the devastating wildfire that ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta. For 2017, our donation is meant to support the Canadian Red Cross flood relief efforts in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. This year we are proud to donate $800.

The Board of Directors would like to thank all of our speakers, sponsors, conference attendees, and of course our members, for another successful Conference and Annual General Meeting. Your continued support and dedication is what makes all of this possible!

Proud to serve Ontario’s Emergency Management Community,

Thank You.

Tim Lindsay

Engagement Director


The Ontario Association of Emergency Managers (OAEM) Student Awards were created to showcase the upcoming talent we have within our growing emergency management community. The criteria sought after for the OAEM Student Awards are as follows: high academic excellence, volunteerism, a high level of enthusiasm and interest in emergency management field and contributions to the emergency management community.

About the Awards:

Brian Hook Memorial Award: 

This award is named after Major Brian Hook, who was a past president of OAEM. He attended Royal Roads and The Royal Military College, and served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons from 1971 to 1999. Following his retirement from the army in 1999, Major Brian Hook spent 3 years with the EMO in York Region before retiring again in 2002. He very much believed in helping students and giving back to your community, which is why we have the Brian Hook Memorial Award today.

The Brian Hook Memorial Award, which honours the memory of Major Brian Hook (CD), goes to a student who has made significant contributions to the field of Emergency Management while maintaining a high level of academic excellence. ($1,500)

A Normand Academic Award:

The award is named after Alain Normand, an author, lecturer, teacher expert in Emergency Management, and a past OAEM President. He directed relief efforts in emergencies such as the Saguenay floods, the Quebec Ice Storm, the Haiti repatriation, and the Calgary floods amongst others. He is the Emergency Manager for the City of Brampton, since 1999. Apart from being the past-President of the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers (OAEM), he sits on many national, provincial and local committees. Alain Normand is the recipient of the 2010 Canadian Award for Emergency Management from the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness. He teaches emergency management and business continuity at York University and Sheridan College. Alain is also the author of a series of novels on emergency management published by Authorhouse and available at Alain was involved in the coordination of the City of Brampton emergency response to the December 2013 Ice Storm; and, Fort McMurray relief operations as a Red Cross volunteer, where he was an Emergency Response Team Leader

coordinating logistical aspects of national response from the Red Cross Mississauga Headquarters.

The A. Normand Academic Award is granted to a student who has showcased an exemplary academic paper relating to emergency management and/or business continuity. ($1,000)

President’s Award: 

As an association, the OAEM Board of Directors wanted to highlighted professionals who have gone back to school to either upgrade their level of academic learning or change professions, as professionals bring with them skills and experiences that can be of great assistance within the emergency management field. Furthermore, as a volunteer association, we wanted to highlight the contributions that these professionals have made to emergency management.

The President’s Award is granted to a professional who has chosen to enhance their emergency management knowledge, while contributing to the EM field and maintaining a high level of academic excellence. ($500)


Brian Hook Memorial Award Winner: Julie Chambers from York University

Julie is currently a candidate for a Master of Disaster and Emergency Management (MDEM) at York University where she also completed her undergraduate degree and certificate in emergency management. Though emergency management has been a passion for Julie for several years, the combination of her work experience and education ignited her interest in pursuing disaster and emergency management (DEM) in an academic setting. Within emergency management, her most recent roles include working and/or volunteering with the Rosedale-Moore Park Association, Toronto Pride, and the City of Burlington. Additionally, Julie leads the York University Disaster and Emergency Management Student Association (DEMSA) as President. Julie’s specific interests in the field are climate change and environmental sustainability, psychosocial elements of disaster and emergency management, and critical infrastructure protection. With her Master’s degree, Julie hopes to work on developing sustainable policies, plans, and programs to enhance the capabilities of local communities and organizations. Through her work with DEMSA she hopes to collaborate with the DEM community within and outside of the MDEM program to foster a positive experience for the all DEM students.

From left to right: Michael Hook (son of Major Brian Hook) and Julie Chambers

A Normand Academic Award Winner: Jennifer Martin from Royal Roads University

Jennifer is a current student with Royal Roads University in the Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management (MA DEM) degree program. Her academic career started at Wilfrid Laurier University with an Honours Bachelor degree in Global Studies, with a minor in Sociology. After working for a couple of years, Jennifer pursued the Emergency Management Graduate Certificate from Fanshawe College. Through this certificate’s practicum, Jennifer worked on a project with the City of Hamilton creating and formatting questions for their community emergency preparedness outreach program. After a year of working in the environmental emergency response industry, Jennifer pursued her MA DEM journey. Jennifer has a background as a client service representative taking insurance claims during a number of disaster events such as; Hurricane Sandy, floods in numerous Canadian regions, windstorms in Alberta and ice storms in Southern Ontario to name a few. She has also recently assisted with student development activities at Sheridan College with their Emergency Management program. Jennifer continuously attends training sessions to boost her knowledge and professional development, most recently in Incident Management System (IMS 300 and 250) and the Emergency and Continuity Management Standards (CSA Z1600). Jennifer’s future goals are to gain more hands on experience in the DEM field through the internship track of the MA DEM program.

From left to right: Nicole Normand, Alain Normand and Jennifer Martin

President’s Award Winner: Serenna Besserer from Algonquin College

Serenna Besserer is in her seventh year of working for the Canadian Red Cross. During her first six years on the job she was the Disaster Management Community Services Coordinator and responsible for a very large district in North Eastern Ontario encompassing over 40 Municipalities and First Nation Reserves. Serenna managed a team of 100 Volunteers in her district by providing coordinated Red Cross Emergency Management program services. Serenna also managed the community’s homeless prevention initiative program in coordination with the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board. During Serenna’s six years as the Disaster Management Community Services Coordinator she has managed Municipal & Multi Municipal emergencies as well as assisted in Provincial, National and International responses. Serenna has also managed the annual spring flood evacuations of James Bay communities.

In 2016 Serenna was promoted as the Assistant Manager to the James and Hudson Bay coastal Red Cross offices, responsible for all programs. She currently manages the staff along the James and Hudson Bay, and is helping to build community resilience through public education, building community partnerships and prepositioning disaster relief supplies and trained volunteers. Serenna’s next goal is to enroll in the Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management program to aid in her professional growth within the EM field. Her passion is disaster management and to continue to help people affected by disasters.

From left to right: Past Presidents Alain Normand and Mike Hand, Serenna Besserer and current President Mike O’Brien

The results are in!!  Here is the leadership team and incoming Board for 2017-2018. Thanks to everyone who volunteered and looking forward to big things in the coming year.


OAEM Leadership Team for 2017 -18

President Mike O’Brien
Vice- President Amber Rushton
Secretary / Communications Paul Ha ssanally
Treasurer Katie Subbotina (math degree!)
Education Nicole Pinto
Professional Development Jason Reid
Engagement Tim Lindsay
Projects (title may change) Sarah Elizabeth Thompson
Director (title may change) Scott Davis
Director (title may change) John Theofilaktidis
Administration Perry Ruehlen
OFMEM Liaison O Alex Lawless
Editor Sean Maraj
Student Director TBA

Thank you to Magda Sulzycki and Jennifer Smysnuik for your ongoing service to the board.

Here are a few snapshots from Day One of the conference. Some of the highlights included an update from the Federal government and a closer look at response activities during the Fort McMurray forest fires. Day two photos and highlights to follow.


Ryan Hunt giving an update from Public Safety Canada
Highlighting the Red Cross response in Fort McMurray
Marc Fortais and the response in Wood Buffalo
President Mike O’Brien opening the conference

On April 7th, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) hosted our inaugural “First Friday” Branch Meeting at the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC), which included presentations from MTO, Georgina Township, and several OFMEM staff. We expanded our audience, normally limited to staff of the EM Branch, and invited GTA-area CEMCs, MEMCs, and federal partners.

But let me back up a little.

As emergency management practitioners, we’ve all heard the phrase “An emergency is not the time to be exchanging business cards.” When we started the process of identifying priority activities for the EM Branch late last year, there was widespread agreement that we should be working as a branch to improve relationships with our stakeholders. Of the four goals ultimately identified in our 2017 Business Plan, two are focused on relationships:

Building trust with our partners is not a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have”. Not only do we need strong relationships during emergency incidents, but as we strive to build Ontario’s “next generation” emergency management system, we know we can’t do it alone.

It was in the pursuit of these goals that our Operations Manager, Jason Redlarksi, suggested that we open up our weekly Branch meetings to our partners once a month. When Branch meetings were first introduced by our Director Mike Morton last October, many of us (myself included) thought “Oh no, not ANOTHER teleconference!” I will gladly eat my words now, as they’ve turned into a highlight of the week. Each meeting follows the weekly Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA) in the PEOC, and 3-5 staff members provide updates on projects they are working on or events they have attended. With many of our staff working remotely, it’s helped ensure everyone is in the loop. The meetings have increased collaboration by connecting our own work with the business plan and the work of our colleagues. With his suggestion, Jason presented another

opportunity for connection – connecting the work we do with that of our partners.

Fast forward to the present.

Operations Manager Jason Redlarski delivering the PEOC Threat Risk Assessment

The first “First Friday” meeting was timed to coincide with the launch of our Emergency Management Visual History project, a photo gallery in the hall outside the PEOC illustrating disasters that have influenced the evolution of emergency management in Ontario. We asked Stephanie Maragna, EM Coordinator for the Ministry of Transportation, to present on the development of MTO’s Heavy Equipment Emergency Mobilization System (HEEMS). Ron Jenkins, the CEMC for Georgina Township, provided an overview of the response to the Georgina Train Derailment in March. OFMEM’s Public Education Officer Aman Kainth shared success stories of the successful #PrepareYourSelfie campaign in preparation for Emergency Preparedness Week, while Amanda Davy provided an update on the re-establishment of the Incident Management System (IMS) Steering Committee. After the meeting presenters and guests were invited to stick around for coffee and networking.

We’ve been thrilled by the feedback we received on this initiative, and are eagerly planning the next “First Friday” meeting, to be held on May 5th. This meeting will feature an update from the NGO Alliance on the exciting work they are doing.

As with many things in EM, our vision for these meetings is still evolving. We want the meetings to be inclusive, accessible and reflective of the diversity of our stakeholders while keeping in mind our limitations of space (the PEOC is big, but not that big!), technology (Our WebEx account limits the number of users who could attend remotely) and location (we’re a little further north now, but still in

Toronto!). We also don’t know — would you all even be interested in attending these meetings? (Trick question, of course you would!) Above all, we want the meetings to provide value to our staff and guests, and we welcome your suggestions. If you’re working on a project, have responded to a recent incident, or are planning an EM-related event and think it would be relevant to OFMEM and our EM partners, please let us know. You can e-mail me at

Alex Lawless, Liaison Officer – Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management


I am often asked what spurred me to write my newly published book, 7 Steps to Emergency Preparedness for Families. The answer is twofold: a need for action, and a need for teamwork. Let me explain.

We know that given the frequency and magnitude of disasters, there is an urgent need for families to prepare. Yet we also know that prevention is a hard sell. How do we motivate people to take action?

First, we must motivate and provide appealing and easily accessible solutions, rather than ‘information’. Second, risk reduction stakeholders must collaborate to disseminate resources as widely as possible. 

Information abounds on the Internet, but not all credible, accurate, or practical. After searching extensively on the web myself, even I got confused. It is easy to get lost in the links, become overwhelmed, and give up — not ideal for promoting resilience. Furthermore, it is somewhat unrealistic to expect people to know what the solutions are and have the drive to find them. And even if someone perseveres for answers, gathering information rarely leads to action.

Surely, I thought, a tangible tool to inspire action must exist. I searched, but I could not find one that met my criteria:

  • Offer a comprehensive, all-hazard approach on how to prepare, respond, and return home safely.
  • Be affordable, accessible, and practical.
  • Translate research and lessons learned from past disasters into simple language.
  • Apply proven strategies to galvanize risk reduction behavior.
  • Support, but not duplicate, current strategies from government and nonprofit organizations.

So, I wrote my book to fill the gap!

As an independent expert, I could develop and market my book without any limitations. A major goal I had in mind when writing was to motivate action by maximizing every known strategy. The information had to be clear, relevant, accurate, and focused on doable action. As well, it was important to use effective marketing strategies and leverage the concept of social responsibility. Furthermore, people tend to commit more if they’ve paid for something. This book is not a substitute or replacement for national and global risk reduction efforts; rather, it has been designed to be an effective complement to them.

I consider myself part of the global risk reduction team. With my book and related presentations and workshops, I can reach families, communities, and companies where traditional emergency preparedness can’t go, both supporting and augmenting government and nonprofit strategies. Teamwork in action!

I take great pleasure in helping people and seeing their stress replaced with feelings of peace and pride, knowing that their family or company is prepared for disaster. Of the many comments on my book, let me share two: “This is exactly what we need”; “Can we use it as a training manual for our community?” My response? Yes! Mission accomplished.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. —Helen Keller

For more information about the book and where to purchase it, please visit Discounts are offered for orders of 25 books or more,

Some studies seem to imply that aversion to change is embedded in human genes. Author Raúl Ilargi Meijer* tells us that “We prefer to focus on those things that stay the same, or seem to stay the same, ignoring those that don’t, even if they change in -comparatively- radical ways, until we no longer can.”

We tend to keep to our comfort zones. I remember in some of my early positions coming out of university. I was ready to change the world, to put into practice of all this newly acquired knowledge based on years of reading, analysing and essay writing. Then I hit the wall. Colleagues of mine who had been on the job for decades quickly tried to reign me in. “Slow down kid”, “Don’t rock the boat”, and other similar instructions came from those who liked status quo and saw me as a trouble-maker. Even my superiors often didn’t like my ideas for new initiatives. I learned that change was not welcome in many circles and I had to work in very small increments to implement any new ideas where I worked.

A researcher by the name of David Gleicher, back in 1987 actually devised a formula for overcoming resistance to change. It’s such a strong force that we need a number of parameters to actually drive change. The formula goes like this:

D x V x F > R

The R is the Resistance element and it will always be greater than 0. That goes along with the idea that it’s in human nature to resist change. So the other side of the equation must be greater than 0 to have any change at all. Which also means that all three parameters must be greater than zero. Any multiplication by zero will always result in zero. So what are the three elements that must be present to break the resistance.

The D stands for Dissatisfaction. This is what I didn’t get with my colleagues at work. The work done may have been mediocre and inefficient in my view but everybody liked it that way so the dissatisfaction factor was zero. My attempts were doomed from the start.

The V means Vision. It is an identification of a desired state of affairs. A lot of people are quick to criticize but when you ask them what they would do differently, few really have any idea of what that should be. It’s simple in principle to repeal the ObamaCare program for health but what will replace it has not been articulated in any way.

The third element, however, is the usual stumbling block. The F means First step. You can be unhappy about something and know what you would want to have in its place but until you do anything about it, it’s pointless. It’s like wanting to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket.

Applying this to emergency management in Ontario, many who know me have heard of my dissatisfaction. I’ve tried to bring constructive ideas to create at least a partial vision of what should be brought in. I’ve often taken the first step on some of the initiatives where I had the authority. There are areas, however, where I had no ability to bring in any change. The first step had to come from someone else.

So I am happy to report that I saw this first step a few weeks ago when I accepted the invitation to attend the “First Friday” event put on by Mike Morton, Director of Emergency Management at OFMEM and his team. The event was open to all CEMCs and emergency management professionals to create an opportunity for dialogue. We were provided to an introduction to some of the initiatives that EMO staff and partners were working on. It gave us a glimpse into what the province sees as priorities. It also, more importantly, gave us a voice at the province to raise any concerns and issues we may have had as well as a place to bring suggestions. We had the chance to bring the D of dissatisfaction and the V of vision to the forefront with a group of people ready to hear us. Even better, those people affirmed to us the willingness to take the first step towards this vision.

I am often the voice of the silent majority. I often write and express my concerns publicly, while I know many of my colleagues in the field would hesitate to do the same. I understand that for many junior EM professionals, this could mean a career limiting move. At my stage in my career, it is not something I worry about. This time, however, I wanted to show that I am also able to recognize the positive and give praise where it is due.

In a recent blog, I criticized the fact that emergency management positions were often filled with the wrong people and I voiced this directly to Fire Marshall Ross Nichols at the last OAEM AGM. So I was happy to see that the latest key hiring and promotion to key positions within EMO went to respected EM professionals, notably Aileen Cassels and Mike Morton.

I am optimistic. The resistance is breaking. I am also grateful to those who have had the courage to take the first steps.

Alain Normand

Introducing the IAEM-Canada Council Community Blog

The IAEM-Canada Council includes IAEM members in all provinces of Canada. The IAEM-Canada Region became the first region outside the United States in 2003 under the previous IAEM organizational structure. Marg Verbeek, CEM, was the first IAEM President from outside the United States (2005-2006). The IAEM-Canada Region became the IAEM-Canada Council (one of seven Councils worldwide) in 2007, when the current organizational structure went into effect. The IAEM-Canada President, currently Rebecca Wade, CEM, serves as the representative of the Council on the IAEM-Global Board. To get updated information on the council and our members throughout Canada please visit –