The Emergency Management Exemplary Service Award is a prestigious recognition for exceptional service and achievement. This award, a partnership between provincial, territorial and federal governments, recognizes recipients who have achieved excellence in their respective fields.

Awards will be granted in five categories:

o   Resilient Communities;

o   Search and Rescue Volunteers;

o   Search and Rescue Employees;

o   Youth; and,

o   Outstanding Contribution to Emergency Management

The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management is now accepting nominations for the Resilient Communities, Youth and Outstanding Contribution to Emergency Management categories. All nominations must be submitted to OFMEMAwards@ontario.ca by January 31st, 2018.

Search and Rescue nominations can be made to Public Safety Canada.

Nominations should be for initiatives and achievements undertaken in the past two calendar years (this requirement is waived for recognition of outstanding careers). In addition to new nominations, nominators are permitted to resubmit unsuccessful nominations for initiatives and achievements undertaken in the past two calendar years.

You can find the nomination forms and more information about the EM Awards by visiting https://www.emergencymanagementontario.ca/english/insideemo/EmergencyManagementExemplaryServiceAward.html

I have often been told that I see the “grey” in what some would perceive as black and white situations; a mantra that I try to intuitively apply to every facet of life.  I can compare “seeing the grey” to a well-known and often quoted musical adage; that to fully appreciate the music you need to listen to the space between the notes. You see, I completed my undergraduate degree in music and had the pleasure of studying music appreciation. I draw parallels from the many hours I sat listening and critiquing performances in the concert hall to how to challenge myself to become an effective leader. I learned a great deal in the stillness and the quiet of that hall: the space between the notes includes hidden motifs, cultural innuendos, clever plays on history, glimpses into the composer’s character, all set in the context of the time in which the piece was written. Missing such intricacies can equate to the listener being robbed of a well-intentioned emotion / theme / message that the composer was trying to depict through the composition. To this point, when I lead, I treat my staff, colleagues, clients, friends, with the same attentiveness that I would sipping a glass of chardonnay and listening to one of Johanne Braham’s Concerti’s. And so, this is my call to leaders across the board – reflect on this vision and apply the “grey mantra” as a means to energize an intention within an organization; read between the notes and allow the hidden themes to guide your conflict management practices, innovative adaptations, ability to coach and mentor, and to drive a movement of passionate leadership.

It’s through experience that I have witnessed to an organization’s ability to sustain, to adapt and grow by utilizing the grey mantra.  On the contrary, I have also witnessed to organizations that resist seeing beyond black and white; unfortunately earning a negative reputation and struggling in two key areas: maintaining competitive advantage and business sustainability. Two principles drive the grey mantra: optimism and altruism. Both principles need to be rooted throughout an organization and extend through the people that encompass all business functions. These two principles are the tools applied to turn a positive intention into a flourishing business practice.

If optimism does not flow from the head of an organization and permeate all functions, the culture will suffer, and its people may struggle to find true satisfaction or meaning in their work. This can result in wariness and discord, a breeding ground for toxic culture. It is in this state that leadership usurps the need to invest in their people with the narrow-minded thinking of profit before all else.  To prioritize profit over people will ultimately undermine an organization’s bottom line.  In a highly competitive and dynamic marketplace, investing in and prioritizing human capital will pay long-term dividends when it comes to competitive advantage, employee retention, and ultimately profit margins.

Altruism is a principle that must be practised when leading an organization to sustain and adapt to market demand. In its absence, there’s a lack of investment and mentorship in people, and personal accountabilities are not taken seriously. To build a culture of positivity and create a space where people want to work and invest their time, leadership need to be driven by selflessness and passion to motivate others. Altruism lends to an organizational culture that responds with an understanding of character traits at play, has tolerances for underlying vulnerabilities and looks for key strengths in people to enhance structure and innovation. It provides an understanding of historical processes to continuously adapt to an ever-changing climate, and creates a culture of personal accountability.

It is through transparent and communicative leadership that optimism and altruism transform the culture of the organization. These “spaces between the notes” provide energy to sustain, adapt and grow an organization, all the while creating a culture of innovation, transparency, and investment.  Seeing the grey provides people within the organization with true leadership and a sense of purpose, painting an optimistic organizational paradigm for its publics which, as research demonstrates, does drive profitability. Lead with optimism, invest in people, continuously adapt to the market effectively, and innovate to maintain competitive advantage; four simple truths driven from “seeing the grey”.

 

By now most of you should be finished or most of the way through our first book, and we will be opening up the discussion portion of the book club. I am posting some discussion questions to get us started, but if there are any other salient points or questions you would like to ask, you are welcome. As always, let’s keep the discussion fact based, and cite your sources if needed.

1. Charles Perrow introduces us to concepts such as complex vs linear, tightly coupled vs loosely coupled,  and ranks different systems based upon their complexity and coupling. Where would you list your organization, or for that matter, emergency management? Why?

2. Perrow waffles somewhat on the concept of risk homeostasis: the idea that we all have a natural risk level, and that new safety features entice us to push the system to higher limits. Sometimes he accepts it as a legitimate cause of behaviour, other times he dismisses it, and still others he attributes it more to the macro-scale of production (it is less the individual’s risk homeostasis than the industry’s homeostasis). Which do you think is the more correct formulation? Do you think we are always seeking to push the boundaries, that it’s more the production pressures from the system, or does none of that play a role and it is just a natural consequence of the system at large?

3. Perrow in the last chapter takes a pretty dim view of what was to him recently a new class of professionals: risk assessors. Arguably many regulatory agencies are in bed with the groups they oversee, but he takes it one step further: arguing that they exist to legitimize the wisdom of the crowd. Expert knowledge, statistics and mathematical probabilities, he feels exist as a way to legitimize what would otherwise be unacceptable risks to a world, not as an objective measure of risk. Is he right? What does that mean for our profession (arguably we would fit in the class of risk assessors)?

4. This book was written back in the 1980s. The world has undoubtedly changed since then. What new technologies have arisen that you think fit in that class of risks that we should abandon, modify, or accept?

5. Are there any specific lessons, concepts, or ideas that you felt you could take away and use in your organization?

Calling all Seasoned EM/BC Professionals, Students and Early Career Professionals! Registration for the OAEM Mentorship Program is now open!

The OAEM mentorship program is now kicking off for the third time! The program is for college/university students based in Ontario who are studying in an emergency management educational program, or early career professionals based in Ontario who have graduated within the last 2 years. The program aims to connect EM/BC students and early career professionals to seasoned professionals in the field in order to promote networking and knowledge transfer, and assist in building connections.

The OAEM Education Director will provide help to both Mentors and Mentees in establishing the partnership. Monthly contact between Mentors and Mentees is expected via phone, e-mail, Skype, Face Time, and face-to-face meetings.

If you are currently working in emergency management or business continuity in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors and would like to guide and develop the next generation of emergency management practitioner or if you are an Ontario-based EM/BC student interested in building connections and learning about the field, please  complete a form found on the following link:

https://oaem.ca/career-building/mentorship/

Review from Serenna Besserer (OAEM Mentor 2016 – 2017):

“I really enjoying being able to mentor students studying Disaster and Emergency Management. I wish this opportunity was presented to me when I first started my career and it is nice to give back by helping the new students.”

Review from Saricka DaCosta (OAEM Mentee 2016 – 2017):

“Great opportunity to learn from experience individuals in the field, if you are every considering going into the EM.”

If you have any questions, please contact education@oaem.ca

Mental health and the impact it can have in the operational environment took centre stage at a recent professional development session held by the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers, on November 03, 2017 at the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre in Toronto.

Conducted in partnership with the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall and Emergency Management (OFMEM), the session entitled “Mental Health in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) – What you need to know as an industry leading emergency manager” was the first in a professional development series launched by the OAEM in September with the goal of providing proactive and practical strategies for supporting mental health in the EOC.

According to Dr. Lori Gray, a clinical, forensic, and rehabilitation psychologist who focuses on the issue of trauma through her work with first responders and a key note speaker at the development session, there were key takeaways which would allow attendees to strengthen their emergency management programs in respect to mental health.

“While the field of workplace mental health has grown exponentially, recommendations have tended to focus more on traditional work,” Gray said during the presentation.  “In contrast, the EOC presents unique demands and challenges in the application of those recommendations.”

Moving forward, the second event in the professional development series, scheduled to take place on 25 January 2018, will focus and review the best practices and lessons learned in crisis communications and reputation management. Jason Reid, OAEM’s Professional Development Director, believed the mental health session and the series itself further affirms the commitment of the volunteer organization in furthering the emergency management field.

“It’s truly remarkable how a group of volunteers made up of passionate professionals can have a positive impact on the professional development in Ontario’s Emergency Management Community,” said Jason Reid. “We have a unique opportunity and obligation to support emergency management professionals while connecting industry experts willing to share the good, and more importantly the bad.  This shared information allows others to gain the strength of knowledge from both new practices and the lessons learned.”

The Emergency Management Branch of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) is pleased to announce the launch of the ‘Municipal EMPCA Online Compliance Submission Tool’.  This tool was developed by OFMEM, with the assistance of CEMCs from across the province.  The tool provides CEMCs with the ability to provide OFMEM with their annual compliance submission online, including copies of any supporting documents that they wish to provide in order to demonstrate their compliance with the annual requirements of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The tool has been developed in way that is intuitive, easy to follow, and secure. Continue reading

OAEM’s Professional Development Series Reinforces its Mission of Promoting, Supporting, and Enhancing the Profession of Emergency Management

Mental health and the impact it can have in the operational environment took centre stage at a recent professional development session held by the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers, on November 03, 2017 at the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre in Toronto.

Conducted in partnership with the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall and Emergency Management (OFMEM), the session entitled “Mental Health in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) – What you need to know as an industry leading emergency manager” was the first in a professional development series launched by the OAEM in September with the goal of providing proactive and practical strategies for supporting mental health in the EOC.

According to Dr. Lori Gray, a clinical, forensic, and rehabilitation psychologist who focuses on the issue of trauma through her work with first responders and a key note speaker at the development session, there were key takeaways which would allow attendees to strengthen their emergency management programs in respect to mental health.

“While the field of workplace mental health has grown exponentially, recommendations have tended to focus more on traditional work,” Gray said during the presentation.  “In contrast, the EOC presents unique demands and challenges in the application of those recommendations.”

Moving forward, the second event in the professional development series, scheduled to take place on 25 January 2018, will focus and review the best practices and lessons learned in crisis communications and reputation management. Jason Reid, OAEM’s Professional Development Director, believed the mental health session and the series itself further affirms the commitment of the volunteer organization in furthering the emergency management field.

“It’s truly remarkable how a group of volunteers made up of passionate professionals can have a positive impact on the professional development in Ontario’s Emergency Management Community,” Reid said. “We have a unique opportunity and obligation to support emergency management professionals while connecting industry experts willing to share the good, and more importantly the bad.  This shared information allows others to gain the strength of knowledge from both new practices and the lessons learned.”

In Brampton, good things come in “threes”. At least when dealing with emergency management. We have three response teams, A, B and C. We offer training sessions three times to make sure all our teams get the full package. Finally, our exercise series is always a group of three sessions.

In September and October 2017, we held exercise Tempest, a tornado exercise scenario. Tempest I was for team A and was a full-scale exercise, the largest the City of Brampton has ever held. Tempest II was held only in the EOC and gave Tea

m B the task of transitioning from response into recovery, while Tempest III had Team C take on the task of coordinating the recovery plan activities.

Tempest I involved 174 staff from the City of Brampton including Mayor Jeffrey, the Region of Peel including Peel Police, and

partner agencies, along with over 60 volunteers and 20 evaluators/observers. We had 8 fire trucks, 2 buses, 7 police vehicles and 1 ambulance on site. The exercise play was held at the Brampton Powerade Centre where the parking lot was turned into a disaster zone. With cars turned over, trees and branches mixed with all sorts of debris, and volunteers dressed with make-up of bloody parts, severed limbs and other injuries, the place was reminiscent of an apocalyptic movie set.

On site, beyond the victim extrication, the emergency medical intervention, and the triage, we also had a hazmat incident involving a fake chlorine tank rupture, a lost autistic patient, and a woman going into labour. As part of the scenario, one of the buses took on volunteers designated as people to be evacuated to the reception centre/shelter set up at the South Fletcher Sportsplex where Social Services and Red Cross set up to provide them with emergency social services. The other bus took twenty “injured” people and brought them to the emergency room at the Brampton Civic Hospital where a code Orange was declared.

While all of this was going on, the emergency plan was activated, the EOC was opened and the IMS system put to use to support all of these sites. The exercise ran for about two and a half hours and gave us a chance to identify any concerns and gaps in our plans. We included newer elements such as a test Twitter account to see if we were able to send out the information to our citizens in a timely manner.

The planning for all this took almost a full year with the help of Emergency Management Training Inc. who was contracted to develop the scenario and the injects as well as help coordinate the event.

Tempest II had 58 participants including Councillor Palleschi and 2 evaluators. It allowed us to take what had come out of Tempest I and use it as the starting point with the goal of transitioning from response to recovery. Tempest II had another 46 participants including Councillor Bowman and 4 evaluators, this time using the data collected from Tempest I and II to move fully into a recovery plan and set the ground work for what would probably be weeks and months of emergency social service, repairs and rebuilding, as well as economic recovery.

All participants really got into their roles which made for a series of great exercises. We have yet to compile all of the comments from the evaluations but we can already see a few themes for our 2018 workplan. The technology aspect is one that we aim to enhance as well as more clarity on some of the roles non-traditional responders would play.

All three teams performed very well with their respective issues and we are confident that we will have the depth needed in a large-scale or prolonged situation so that we never burn out any of our people. You know the saying that three is a crowd, but when dealing with large-scale emergencies, then a crowd is what you need. So Brampton’s three teams make the exact kind of crowd we want.

At long last we’re getting the OAEM Book Club off the ground! The idea was brought up in the Facebook group during the middle of the year, and OAEM has been wonderful enough to host a place for it on the website.

What is this?

Emergency management is a diverse field. It covers a spectrum of topics from the heady humanities like philosophy (ethics anyone?), to the immensely practical fields of statistics and engineering (trying to eyeball a levee is pretty tough).  So there is a monumental amount of material both directly and indirectly relevant to emergency management. To better explore this embarrassment of literary riches, we’re forming a book club to give us all an opportunity to revisit the classics, explore new ideas, and enjoy some spirited debate over the controversial.

What can you expect?

We’re going to be conservative and start off with about four books a year. Every three months we’ll put up a blogpost on the page indicating what book we’re reading this quarter and a brief description. If everybody is devouring the books and hungry for more, we’ll update the frequency.

At the end of the first month we’ll update the page with a few questions on the book. From there we’ll discuss the book for the next couple of months in the thread below. Just remember to keep all conversations and debates civil, grounded in evidence, and on topic.

During the third month we will start taking suggestions for the next book we’ll read, and then a quick poll on the suggestions. If there’s a tie, we’ll pick one at random and go from there.

What kinds of books can I suggest?

Any book that is published, reviewed, available, and relevant. To make sure that suggestions meet these criteria, all suggestions will need a brief pitch in order to be considered. We reserve the right to accept or reject suggestions based upon accessibility, appropriateness, and availability. For example, we might reject a very well written technical treatise on dam construction if it is 300 pages of straight math and fold-out diagrams.

To get the ball rolling, we’re going to pick a fairly safe choice that is widely available. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with this pick, and I’m sure just as many have read portions of it or the book in its entirety. For the next three months let’s read:

Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies by Charles Perrow.

Written in 1984, Normal Accidents was a huge leap in the way we analyze risks and conceptualize accidents. Rather than looking at the problem of accidents and disaster through an engineering lens, he took a sociological approach. Systems by design could produce unintended consequences, and social factors like organization, management, and hubris, were the main cause of accidents. Perrow gave us new ways of understanding complicated and highly volatile environments. The concepts of ‘linear’ or ‘complex systems’, and ‘tightly coupled’ or ‘loosely coupled’ would not have entered our lexicon without him. This book represented a major step forward in our field and deserves our consideration.

Questions for this book will be posted on 3 December 2017 and we will begin taking suggestions for the next round on 3 January 2018.

Until then happy reading!