By David Etkin

A number of years ago when I first began to get really interested in ethics, I thought back to my time as a federal civil servant and wondered if we had a code of ethics to guide our behavior and decision making. I didn’t even know! With a little research, I found it[1], and after looking it over did recall having to read it (or something like it) when I first entered public service. It was not a topic that came up again in my next 28 years of service, though I must say that, in general, the public servants I worked with do have a strong social conscience and paid attention to issues of right and wrong in their work and dealings with the public.

There is a massive literature on ethics, and over a period of several years I explored some of the ethical issues related to emergency management, published a few papers on that topic (see bibliography below), wrote a chapter on it in my textbook on disaster theory, and gave a few presentations on the topic, at the FEMA Higher Education Conference, the Canadian Risk and Hazards Network, and elsewhere. At this point, I consider myself to be an informed amateur on the topic. One of the interesting aspects about this issue, to me, was the relative lack of research or reports dealing with ethics in emergency management, compared to other fields. Why did it not garner more attention? Was it not perceived to be important enough? In our graduate program in disaster and emergency management at York University, we have offered a course on disaster ethics twice so far, but did not offer it again this year because enrollments were so low. The students who do take it, however, generally love it and often suggest that it should be a required course. We will probably try offering it again next fall, and see what enrollment is like.

At this point I should note that the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) does have a code of ethics published on their web site[2].  It was a good exercise for the IAEM to develop this code and an important first step. Compared to the codes of many other professions, however, it is not well developed.  But to put this in context, I would argue that most of the more developed codes seen elsewhere would greatly benefit from more depth of analysis. More is needed.

A great deal of background thought needs to go into the development of a code of ethics, and there are traps that need to be avoided. The process to create a code should be inclusive and comprehensive, and involve professional ethicists as well as the emergency management community. Below is a straw (wo)man proposal for a Code of Ethics – for the purpose of generating discussion, and new and better proposals. The principles are based upon material in the papers listed in the bibliography. This proposal reflects my thoughts only, and is not the outcome of a consultation process.

 Suggested Principles for a Code of Ethics for Emergency Management

  1. Two Codes are Needed: One for emergency managers and another for emergency management organizations: The first and perhaps most important principle is that a Code of Ethics for emergency managers must be accompanied by a Code of Ethics for emergency management organizations. They need to be mutually supportive. Without this interplay between individuals and the organizations that they work for, it is extremely challenging for emergency managers to act in ways they consider to be ethical, but that might conflict with competing organizational goals or priorities.
  2. Ethical Plurality. More than one ethical theory is relevant to determining ethical decision making and behavior.
  3. Cultural Relevance: The application of ethical theory varies according to cultural norms, in order to reflect variations in values between different cultures. This does not mean that some values may not be considered absolute, such as prohibitions against murder.
  4. Moral Being & Moral Community:
    1. Emergency managers are moral beings who shall endeavor to act in ways that reflect ethical reasoning. Emergency management organizations shall endeavor to be moral organizations that incorporate ethical reasoning in the development and application of policies and procedures in a continuing and ongoing process; these policies and procedures are an inherent part of organizational culture, and encourage employees to act in moral ways.
    2. The moral community served by emergency managers and emergency management organizations must, at a minimum, include all citizens. People, particularly the victims of disaster, shall not be placed in the category of things, but must be considered as beings imbued with rights and duties.
  5. Utilitarian Ethics:
    1. Where utilitarian ethics are used, careful consideration must be given to whose good is being evaluated and how it is measured. The good of victims will generally have priority over the good of non-victims.
    2. Where utilitarian ethics are used, disadvantaged individuals and groups who sacrifice for the greater good are entitled to reasonable compensation.
  6. Deontological Ethics:
    1. Where deontological ethics are used, they shall reflect the normative values of society. This can be challenging in a multicultural society, and will require a broad social discourse.
  7. Duty of Care: Governments owe a special duty of care to some vulnerable populations.
    1. This is particularly true for wards of the state, such as hospital patients and retirement home residents.
    2. A greater duty of care exists for especially vulnerable people, which justifies some level of paternalism.
    3. Governments have a duty of care to their employees.
    4. A duty of care exists for disaster victims that is greater than for citizens who have not suffered in a disaster, all other things being equal. This justifies the allocation of resources to victims as compared to non-victims who may be in greater need.
      1. This duty is diminished when victims knowingly engaged in risky actions, where they had the choice of less risky options. Care must be taken to avoid the trap of ‘blaming the victim’.
      2. This duty may also be diminished where relief may result in the creation of a culture of dependency. This risk must be balanced against the urgent needs of victims who are in need of help for recovery.
    5. Dilemmas: Where ethical dilemmas exists an open, transparent, and fair system will be used to resolve differences (procedural justice), based upon ethical reasoning.
    6. Socialization of Risk: Various ethical theories can support the socialization of risk (e.g. Medicare), but this can result in increased moral hazard. Moral hazard can be justified on the basis of ethical reasoning where the greater good is served or rights are maintained. An example is Disaster Financial Assistance. Such programs should be used with care to avoid, as much as possible, social traps such as the creation of cultures of dependency.
    7. Good Samaritan Behavior. No bureaucracy can anticipate all possible situations. A result of this is that the applications of policies will, in some cases, be perceived as being unfair.
      1. Emergency managers shall use moral reasoning to resolve such situations, in favor of ethical behavior over rigidly following rules.
      2. As a corollary, emergency management organizations shall have a Good Samaritan Policy, recognizing the overarching duty of their employees to act in ethical ways.
      3. It is recognized that the rejection of rules should be exceptional events.
    8. Virtues: The behavior of emergency managers and emergency management organizations shall reflect the following virtues: honesty, caring, compassion, generosity, empathy, impartiality, integrity (which refers to acting consistently according to one’s stated values or principles), diligence, kindness, openness, reliability, resoluteness, respectfulness, sensitivity, tolerance, toughness, trustworthiness, and truthfulness.
    9. Social Contract Ethics: The policies and procedures of emergency management organizations shall reflect the social contract that exists between government and its citizens.
      1. Crisis situations shall not be used as opportunities to further special interests that are not supported by the normative values of society.
    10. Environmental Ethics: Citizens have a right to a healthy natural environment, which also enhances sustainability and disaster resilience.
      1. Emergency management organizations shall endeavor to protect and nurture the natural environment, particularly where it mitigates disaster risk.

Proposed Content

What should a code of ethics look like? There are many examples from other professions, and a perusal of them suggests the following sections:

Possible Table of Contents:

  • Preamble
  • Introduction
  • Mandate & limitations
  • Summary of ethical theories
    • Relevance of theory to emergency management
  • Core Values
  • Principles
    • Critical ethical issues
    • Special obligations[3] in emergency management
    • Ethics of Competence
  • The process of ethical decision making
    • How to resolve ethical dilemmas
  • Conclusion
  • Resources
  • Case studies

Comment: Many of the codes from other professions simply include lists of values, principles, etc., which sound lofty but lack depth. For example, core values typically include:

  • Social justice
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Impartiality
  • Objectivity
  • Honor diversity
  • Competence & excellence
  • Do no harm

Such a list, by itself, is of limited usefulness. For example, the first category of social justice is subject to a variety of interpretations, from both a theoretical and cultural perspective. There are several categories of social justice including distributive justice, corrective justice, and procedural justice, and different cultures and legal systems can approach them quite differently depending upon the social contract that exists. In a multicultural society, such complexities are far from trivial and should be discussed in a code.

Case studies are particularly important. A Code of Ethics needs to go beyond broad statements. It should also include a set of scenarios with examples of applied ethical reasoning, and the identification and analysis of ethical dilemmas specific to emergency management. Such case studies can provide a template for ethical reasoning that professional emergency managers could use in their practice.



[1] Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (

[2] IAEM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (

[3] Obligations exist to self, employers, clients, institutions, partners and the moral community. Special obligations may exist to wards of the state, disabled or especially vulnerable people, volunteers and employees.

On September 27th the National Emergency board issued an Amending Safety Order to Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. The NEB said that the order was made in response to a number of “pipeline releases and overpressure incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2010.”

The statement can be found here.

In this order, Trans-mountain Inc is directed to:

  • Implement a 10 per cent further pressure restriction on its pipeline system;
  • File annual fitness for service assessments for its pipeline system;
  • Conduct and validate a hydraulic analysis, and develop and implement corrective and preventive measures;
  • Assess and optimize its overpressure protection system;
  • Reassess its overpressure incidents;
  • Conduct engineering assessments in accordance with the requirements of Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z662-15 Clause 10.1;
  • Implement a facility and pipeline integrity management program on its pipeline system compliant with sections 6.1 to 6.5 and section 40 of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations; and
  • Develop and implement a water-crossing management program.

Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. operates a 915 kilometre pipeline that carries product from refineries in Montreal and Nanticoke, Ontario to destinations in both the GTA and Montreal.

Trans-Northern Inc pipeline across Southern Quebec and Ontario.
Trans-Northern Inc pipeline across Southern Quebec and Ontario.

While the reduced flow of gasoline through the pipeline is unlikely to affect prices, the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre is warning that there is the potential for temporary short-term supply issues for local gas stations across Southern Ontario, with brief closures of some locations possible.

The Provincial Operations Centre has issued the following statement on this action:

“The Ministry of Energy reports the following:

  • Gasoline supply in the GTA and other regions in Ontario may be impacted as a result of the National Energy Board decision to “lower operating pressure” on the Trans-Northern pipeline, an important pipeline providing gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products for the Ontario market.
  • Lowering the operating pressure has reduced the amount of petroleum product that can be transported on the pipeline.
  • There is the potential for gasoline stations in the GTA and other regions in Ontario to temporarily experience fuel shortages.
  • Provincial refiners are making best efforts to supply gasoline stations through other means, such as marine tanker, truck or rail.
  • The Ministry will continue to monitor the situation.”

by Amber Rushton

The Chinese General, Sun Tzu, a recognized military strategist, is widely known for his work: The Art of War (1). It is in this treatise that he counter-intuitively states that the first rule was to avoid war at all cost due to varying constraints as a result on government, society, and the effected country. He concludes, however, with this thought: if war is the only option, to ensure that it is entered with a decisive plan: to win (2). So too, the first rule to Emergency Management is to avoid an emergency as reasonably practicable, but when an emergency occurs, a decisive plan must be in place: to reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with the emergency event.

As the profession of emergency management currently resides in its infancy phase in many respects, I offer a superimposed perspective to perhaps put forward a paradigm shift within our profession and conceptualize public safety as the driving motif. It is my hope that the cerebellum perspective has a relative emphasis on disaster/emergency management academia and emergency management professionals alike to gauge its true markedness in line with the greater emergency management context.

The cerebellum, then, is referred to as the “little brain” in its Latin context, which is situated at the back of the brain, underlying the occipital and temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex (3). The cerebellum processes input from other areas of the brain, the spinal cord and sensory receptors to supply timing for coordinated movements of the skeletal muscular system, responsible for the movement of the human body (4). The cerebellum, therefore is presented in an analogous manner as the conduit by which information flows through to prepare for, respond to and recover from an emergency event.

The cerebellum signifies the Emergency Manager in that its core function is to modify motor commands of descending pathways to make movements more adaptive and accurate, providing maintenance of balance, coordination of voluntary movements, motor learning and cognitive functions (5). Functional subdivisions extend to support said functions and transcend integrative inputs to produce results. In the same way, Canada’s Emergency Management Framework emphasizes that emergency management involves “all Canadians” and that the responsibility of emergency management falls on many shoulders (6). As such, “ensuring a strong and seamless relationship across these components and with appropriate emergency management partners is critical to effective emergency management” .

Food for Thought

To the recent graduate: Are our emergency management programs accurately equipping you with the means to effectively transition into executing the above mentioned responsibilities?
To the seasoned professional: Are we truly taking on the “cerebellum” role, establishing a collaborative trans-disciplinary facet of useable knowledge to continue to perform your responsibilities well and equip the next generation?
Amber Rushton, BA, EP
Emergency Management Consultant, GHD
OAEM – Board of Directors



1 Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963).
2 John Cooper, Crisis Communications in Canada (Centennial College Press, 2006).
3 U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
4 U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
5 James Knierim, Neuroscience Online – an electronic textbook for the neurosciences (The Johns Hopkins University, 2016).
6 Statistics Canada, Emergency Preparedness in Canada, 2014.
7 Public Safety Canada, An Emergency Management Framework for Canada (Ministers Responsible for Emergency Management, 2011).

By Steve Elliott, Samaritan’s Purse Canada

When the wildfire erupted west of Fort McMurray in early May, our thoughts at Samaritans Purse Canada went immediately back to Slave Lake and the devastating wildfire in May of 2011.   As all of us in the NGO sectors do at times like this, we monitored newsfeeds and immediately began preparing for a disaster response and recovery operation.

Samaritan’s Purse Canada, headquartered in Calgary, is a member of the Alberta NGO Council. Formed in 2000 to support Alberta municipalities in their responses to major emergencies and disasters, the Alberta NGO Council’s mandate is to increase coordination between NGOs and the government to reduce duplication of efforts among responding member organizations.   Disasters or significant emergencies pose unique challenges for resource management.  Uncontrolled mobilization and ‘over response’ can be common challenges in disasters, making coordination unnecessarily complicated.

It’s also important to note that the Alberta Emergency Management Agency is a founding affiliate member and key stakeholder who supports the efforts of the Alberta NGO Council.  It was essential for all NGOs to be coordinated in Alberta, and during an incident where the Provincial Operations Centre (POC) is activated, if requested, the Alberta NGO Council will staff an assigned seat in the POC.  Another one of our roles is to advise municipalities, if they request it, on issues such as Volunteer Management, Donation Management, and Long-Term Recovery.

How did this all play out in Fort McMurray?   The Fort McMurray wildfires posed particular challenges for the Alberta NGO Council – evacuees were dispersed across several municipalities within the province, making coordination of evacuee supports difficult.  But we also had success because of our established relationships with emergency management sectors and pre-positioning in the POC.  Due to the demonstrated expertise of the Alberta NGO Council, two members of the council were invited to participate as part of a newly formed Provincial Emergency Social Services EOC.  This partnership allowed for the strategic deployment of NGO resources as needed and provided the NGO community with the real-time information necessary to make good decisions.

The Alberta NGO Council is still very much involved in the long-term recovery in Fort McMurray.  Three agencies specializing in reconstruction are partnering with the municipal recovery committee to provide direct aid to uninsured and under-insured residents who wish to restore their primary residences lost to the fire.  This spirit of cooperation instead of competition within the NGO community is a hallmark of the Alberta NGO Council and is all too rare in other disaster response settings globally.

In your province, the NGO Alliance of Ontario has recently been formed and is in its early stages.  Its membership, representing a number of will established, well equipped, and experienced NGOs, will provide a ‘clearinghouse’ of NGO supports and expertise for municipalities needing assistance during the response, recovery, and rebuilding phases of their communities.

Give us back our jobs

by Alain Normand

Alain Normand

Would you hire a tailor to perform surgery? A tailor knows how to cut and sew cloth; wouldn’t they be able to do the same with patients?

Would you hire a construction worker to sell homes? A construction worker knows about buildings; wouldn’t they be good at selling them?

A big part of the problem with emergency management is that most key positions are filled by the wrong people. There a myth circulating, particularly at OFMEM, that anyone having played a role as incident commander is able to lead the emergency management office. I would offer that even those who suggest that they have police, fire, or military experience with ICS (Incident Command System) are severely lacking in the skills and knowledge required for emergency management. In fact, what first responders refer to as ICS is used only to a very limited extent. A number of studies published in the American Journal of Emergency Management and the Journal for Homeland Security have demonstrated that the majority of incident commanders are limited to providing leadership only to their own agency and have no experience in leading multi-agency or multi-jurisdictional incidents[1],[2]. “Each agency has its own command post and its own incident commander rarely working together. Also, rarely have a clear indication of who is ultimately in charge because each incident commander is in charge of their own silos.”

Meanwhile, emergency management professionals are all about multi-agency coordination.

The same studies show that most first responders have an operational view of emergencies, with some tactical elements. Meanwhile emergency management is a strategic dimension, aligned with many tactical elements and some operational aspects. Emergency management is about community well-being and about resilience. Response is the smallest part of the discipline. Most of the work is about preparedness and public education, with elements of prevention, mitigation, recovery, and business continuity.

If you want to see what happens when you give the job of emergency management to the wrong person, look no further than Fort McMurray. The evacuation planning for this situation was almost as poor as the response to the Katrina Hurricane. (By the way, Katrina happened right after the US moved away from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) towards a Homeland Security model thereby leaving EM to anti-terrorism experts). In Fort McMurray, with only one road in and no possibility of sheltering up north, a lot of alarms would have gone off if an EM (Emergency Management) professional had been in charge. The evacuation would have been done early on and progressively, not in a last minute mad rush. There would have been resupply stations along the way to ensure access to fuel, water, food and washrooms. The convoy through burning suburbs back to southern Alberta would have been avoided.

Let me clarify that I have huge respect for first responder and military personnel. Their jobs are extremely important and these are professional people with great skills and commitment. However, the skills they have do not automatically make them successful emergency management professionals.

Key EM positions at EMO (Emergency Management Ontario) and elsewhere should be filled by emergency management professionals. Once in place, changes to the legislation are more likely to mirror internationally accepted emergency management principles. Most of these EM professionals are educated to make use of lessons learned from other emergencies. Errors of the past can be avoided. Fort McMurray could have learned from Slave Lake and even from the Australia wildfires.

It’s time emergency management is recognized as a separate discipline with the same importance as police, fire and EMS. It’s not just a part-time job to be done by retired first responders.

I suggest we need to let our politicians know about this. Talk to your local MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) about the issues involved with hiring the wrong people for such an important function. Anything less is putting citizens at risk and most politicians are not aware of this. Submit this to your municipal council and ask them to put pressure on the Ministry of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Letters from 447 Ontario communities may cause a bit of a stir with the Ministry.

Make sure your next operation is done by a surgeon, buy your home from a real estate broker, and let emergency management professionals handle disasters. Tell the minister to give us back our jobs.


Note: The opinions expressed here are totally my own and in no way reflect the position of my employer.

[1] Joseph E. Trainor, Benigno E. Aguirre, Dick A. Buck, University of Delaware/Disaster Research Center, “A Critical Evaluation of the Incident Command System and NIMS”, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 3, Issue 3, 2006

[2] Amy Donahue and Robert Tuohy , “Lessons We Don’t Learn: A Study of the Lessons of Disasters, Why We Repeat Them, and How We Can Learn Them”, The Journal of the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security, July 2006.


North City General Giving Emergency Managers a Leading Insurance Solution

by Margaret Mieczkowski

Margaret Mieczkowski

Emergency professionals such as Emergency Managers and First Responders are so often the unsung heroes, ensuring the safety of others as part of their day to day lives. North City General Insurance Brokers has been providing insurance products for First Responders and Emergency Managers for over 35 years, giving the people who protect us the coverage they deserve.

We have been providing market leading auto and home insurance for Emergency Managers and through the years we have built a reputation for offering customized coverage and a high level of customer care, allowing us to be recognized by many professional First Responder associations in Ontario.

We also have special rates for those students who are studying to become part of the Emergency Management community.

North City understands that unique qualities of professional groups should mean savings on coverage, giving emergency professionals the best possible price through a group insurance model. Our policies are tailored to Emergency Manager, Firefighters, Paramedics, Police and other groups.

Group insurance allows members of an emergency profession to save on their insurance premiums by having their insurance customized towards their specific role, grouped with colleagues.

Ontario introduced reforms to auto insurance accident benefits on June 1, 2016, with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) mooting the changes as making it easier for customers to more through the claims process.

The Statutory Accident Benefits model has undergone a significant overhaul, changing the claims process for those injured in an auto accident. The new law makes what was often a confusing piece of legislation clearer to understand, but includes a reduction in overall benefits to $65,000 for medical, attendant care, and rehabilitation from non-catastrophic injuries combined.

The $1,000,000 for medical rehabilitation from catastrophic injuries and $1,000,000 catastrophic attendant care has also been reduced to $1,000,000 combined. However, the reforms have made it possible for customers to get more coverage by opting for $130,000 combined for non-catastrophic injuries and add an extra $1,000,000 to catastrophic injury benefits.

North City is available to Emergency Managers through the process and help them understand the new accidents benefits in full.

Call us today at 1-888-892-7176 or visit us online at

by Patricia Martel

Patricia Martel
Patricia Martel

As a member of both the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers and the Canadian Risk and Hazards Network (CRHNet), I am thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to share some information on the upcoming annual CRHNet Symposium. The annual symposium will be held immediately following the Public Safety Canada Roundtable for Disaster Risk Reduction from November 23rd-25th, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency in Montréal. The overall theme of this year’s symposium is ‘Inspiring Resilience’ with the goal of exploring the different ways in which Canada can move towards becoming more disaster resilient. Some of the topics include:

  • When Nature, Technology and Society Collide into Disasters
  • New Generation of Professionals
  • Understanding Risks and Vulnerabilities
  • Risk and Emergency Communication
  • Resiliency in Indigenous Communities
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Inspiring Resilience

Emergency management is reliant on the cooperation and sharing of information. Networking and learning events are critical in building strong relationships and strengthening emergency management practices.  The annual CRHNet symposium provides a great opportunity to learn about exciting advancements and lessons learned in emergency management while also serving as a terrific networking event. This event is attended by people involved in all areas of emergency management; practitioners, academics, researchers and students.

The CRHNet Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during the conference. If you would like to nominate someone for their contributions to strengthening and advancing Canadian public safety; check out the nomination form at:

Students and Recent Graduates:

When I was just starting out in emergency management, I was a bit apprehensive about attending events like this symposium.  Every professor had stressed the importance of networking, but what could I as a recent graduate, possibly add to the networking sessions?  After all, so many of the people in attendance had significant experience in emergency management. It turns out that I should not have worried as everyone was very welcoming and understood that sometimes problems need a new perspective which students and recent graduates can bring to the table.

If you are a student in an emergency management program, you may be eligible for free membership and a reduced registration fee for the symposium. Ask your program coordinator if your school has an institutional membership with CRHNet.


Registration fees are below and include access to all programs, exhibits, events and the special student program. It also includes lunches and refreshments during break. You can register at:

Registration Fees
Before September 15th After September 15th
CRHNet Member $490 CRHNet Member $560
Student member (20 student-rate spaces: member and non-member) $100 Student member $200 ($560 if subsidized 20 spaces are filled)
Non-Member $590 Student member


Student Non-Member: (20 student-rate spaces: member and non-member) $125 Student non-member $225 ($650 if subsidized 20 spaces are filled

If you have any questions, please send us an email at or connect with me on LinkedIN. I hope you see you there!

By Kevin Young, Industry Consultant at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure

Kevin Young-photoAs I travel across the country with Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure showcasing emergency management software at conferences and events, a reoccurring conversational theme is: “It needs to be something I use every day”. What these folks mean is if they aren’t using an emergency management solution on a daily basis, they certainly won’t turn to it during an emergency event; they will turn to the familiar, the understood, and the everyday tools they use to get the job done.

That makes sense. I won’t argue with that logic. The last thing you need is to waste time trying to figure out an emergency management application you haven’t touched in six months, or a year, or even longer when situations happen. My experience in emergency response planning has occurred largely within the energy sector, and largely within small to medium sized businesses. In general, the technology I’ve seen used to address an emergency response includes cell phones, conference bridges, and the occasional computer connected to a projector on a large screen in an emergency operations center. The infrastructure control systems (e.g., SCADA) also play a large role in the operational aspects of the response. But not so much in the coordination and management of the response. A quick search of the Internet will tell you that approximately 50 percent of organizations use some form of emergency management software to coordinate staff in a crisis. But when you talk to those organizations they tell you “yeah we bought that, but we don’t use it.” Why? The app is cumbersome, or there is a simpler, more common means to complete whatever task or process the emergency management software was purchased for. As a guy who works for an emergency management technology company, it’s definitely thought provoking.

There are a lot of emergency management tools out there, and a lot of thought and intelligence has gone into developing systems to improve response time, reduce impact, and save lives. I believe these technologies, used as designed, do improve the process of planning and responding to an emergency. And yet, by and large, the common tools continue to be used, and proclaimed as better simply because of their familiarity. So how do you get beyond the common? Or put another way, how do you make the improved systems, those with the intelligence and functionality to significantly improve the metrics of a response, the common tools that are used? You have to make the system and its interfaces useful every day, and you can help that by operationalizing emergency management.

Sound complicated? It’s not as complicated as it might seem, but it does involve a certain shift in organizational dynamics and culture. Really, what I’m talking about is setting up your emergency management software system(s) and processes so they are integrated with the daily activities of your organization. Each day is addressed as an event with the potential to include any number of emergencies. The emergency management system doesn’t need to interfere with daily operations, but it should be set up to absorb and take-in the results of daily operations at a higher level.

And, should some of those results be unexpected or outside normal parameters, the system and personnel are ready to address those instances as part of standard, common emergency management operations. Many emergency management systems come with a map, so it should always be kept up to date with ongoing activities and statuses. Other systems have communication interfaces, task tracking, and assignment – use them within the emergency management team – and within the larger organization – to process workflows. If the system performs resource management, use it daily to monitor the emergency management resources (and others) to know who’s on where and when. If the staff uses the tools daily, train other applicable staff through routine interaction, and there is a conscious level of readiness maintained across the organization, you’ve obtained emergency management nirvana. And, ideally, the more sophisticated and complex systems and tools designed to improve emergency planning and response will become the common ones used and looked to when a disruption to normal day-to-day operations occurs.

At Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, we encounter organizations where emergency management systems have been installed to address emergency events, but lay dormant, unused, and likely unusable should an emergency happen. We understand organizations want value for their investment and that is why with each technological systems implementation we include transition and adaptation phases to help with the organizational culture shift. Emergency management software implementations are most successful when the idea that an emergency can occur at any time is actively embraced, and operational metrics associated with normal and abnormal activity are embedded in each process. As emergency managers, coordinators, and planners focus on responsibilities with attention to the systems in place to improve emergency management performance, the need to learn from and engaging these systems so that they become familiar and part of the common tools in use is essential.

We want to give emergency professionals and responders a chance to check out our technology and test how it could work for you and your organization. We will be hosting several Canadian Emergency Management Roadshows in Canada with a few stops in Ontario, so be sure to check the OAEM events page for more information.

By Paul Hassanally

For most of the month of June, 2016 I had the opportunity to deploy to Fort McMurray with an Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Team Rubicon to help the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) facilitate the re-entry of evacuated residents. Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. The global disaster relief organization offers veterans, first responders as well as emergency management professionals and eager civilians the opportunity to serve communities affected by disasters. Founded in 2010 by two American veterans, Team Rubicon currently counts 35,000 volunteers across country affiliates in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and now Canada.

The Team Rubicon Command Post with the initial group of volunteers. As the operation scaled up, the Command Post was reconfigured four times to better suit the increased staffing, planning and workflow. Image Credit: David Korus, Team Rubicon USA
The Team Rubicon Command Post with the initial group of volunteers. As the operation scaled up, the Command Post was reconfigured four times to better suit the increased staffing, planning and workflow. Image Credit: David Korus, Team Rubicon USA

The Fort McMurray deployment was Team Rubicon’s first mission in Canada and marked the operational launch of its national affiliate: Team Rubicon Canada. With a more formal launch slated for later this year, for the last seven months, a team of Canadian veterans have worked alongside emergency management professionals such as myself to bring Team Rubicon’s model of disaster relief to Canada.

On May 25, 2016, a seven-person team of American and Canadian Team Rubicon volunteers arrived in Fort McMurray to set to work with the RMWB. With myself as the Incident Commander and the support of Team Rubicon Global, USA, UK, Australia and a partner NGO, IsraAID, Team Rubicon Canada’s operation in Fort McMurray would scale in a matter of three days from 25 to over 380 personnel, including local government employees, private contractors, volunteers and other partner volunteer groups. This rapid scaling was all made possible by the disciplined use and application of ICS by Team Rubicon.

The first task that the RMWB gave to Team Rubicon was to support the reopening of the local food bank by decontaminating non-perishable goods and disposing of any unusable food stock. Completed in three days, the volunteers then began to work on disposing of fridges that had become biohazardous after a month of being left with food products in them since before the evacuation.

While fridge removal was underway, the Team Rubicon command team was busy planning the next large task, which was to design and implement a program with the RMWB to provide a service to sift through the ashes of burned homes to retrieve special heirlooms or personal items for residents. This was an especially complex task since the ashes of the homes were considered to be hazardous material under a protective coating that had been applied to the burned areas to keep the ash contained. These conditions would require all volunteers and workers in these areas to wear Level C hazardous materials personal protective equipment, which included Tyvek suits, rubber boots, gloves, half-face respirator, goggles and hard hats.

Strike Teams were led by Team Rubicon Volunteers and staffed by local contractors trained by Team Rubicon to work in Haz Mat Level C protection. Photo Credit: Jeremy Hinen, Team Rubicon USA
Strike Teams were led by Team Rubicon Volunteers and staffed by local contractors trained by Team Rubicon to work in Haz Mat Level C protection. Photo Credit: Jeremy Hinen, Team Rubicon USA

The coordination and planning tasks involved in implementing this program meant that Team Rubicon had to manage an inbound-outbound call service to residents scheduling service time windows, plan specific daily work plans for each of the site sifting teams, and track completions for reporting to the Regional Emergency Operations Centre (REOC) and ultimately, the Province of Alberta. All of this was done using ICS, with close coordination between Team Rubicon and the REOC’s planning and operations sections. The REOC and Team Rubicon anticipated that there would be popular demand for this program, so Team Rubicon Operations Section volunteers were used as strike team leaders for site sifting strike teams, augmenting each team with locally contracted labour to field a total of 44 strike teams with 6 personnel each. At peak output, this operations section was completing in excess of 90 property sifting work orders (averaging 3-4 hours each) per day. To achieve this level of impact, a three-day scale-up was conducted where incoming personnel were fit-tested for their masks, trained, and embedded onto a team for learning the sifting process, under close supervision of the Team Rubicon Safety Officer.

Towards the end of the Team Rubicon operation in Fort McMurray, the effort had scaled back down to 22 strike teams and the few remaining work orders were handed over to the RMWB, who inherited the ICS structure that Team Rubicon had put in place for this operation. The effective transition was achieved through a two-day “relief-in-place” procedure, where incoming personnel were embedded to shadow Team Rubicon on the first day, while on the second day Team Rubicon mentored the incoming personnel to provide advice as they completed their tasks within the established ICS structure. Furthermore, members of Team Rubicon’s planning and operations team kept thorough documentation, with daily Incident Action Plans (including mapping, media, and work completion reports), and provided all of these reports to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo upon Team Rubicon’s demobilization.

An infographic summarizing the scale of sifting operations led by Team Rubicon in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Image Credit: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon, USA
An infographic summarizing the scale of sifting operations led by Team Rubicon in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Image Credit: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon, USA

Throughout Team Rubicon’s deployment to Fort McMurray, the disciplined use of ICS enabled an agile and scalable response in building, equipping, training, and managing an organisation of about 350 international volunteers, government and contracted responders in three days.

For more information about Team Rubicon Canada, find the official Facebook page at and keep an eye out for the launch of in the coming days!

For more information on Ontario’s IMS (compatible with ICS), visit for free resources and courseware.

By Alain Normand, Manager, Brampton Emergency Management Office (BEMO)

You all know the story of the carrot and the stick. You use the carrot to encourage the donkey to pull the cart or you use the stick to force the donkey forward. Each option assumes that you have the proper tool, either a carrot or a stick.

A few weeks ago, CEMCs in Ontario received the annual form letter from the Chief of OFMEM reminding us that we needed to work towards being compliant to the Ontario legislation and regulations for emergency management. In 2015, apparently 32% of municipalities were non-compliant.

So now the province is trying to encourage municipalities to follow the regulations but they have no carrot to offer and they never had. There are no incentives for municipalities to be compliant to this legislation. The other option then would be to use a stick but the province doesn’t have a stick either. There is no enforcement and there are no penalties for not being compliant. You get a letter from OFMEM if you are compliant but nothing if you are not; big deal, right?

Actually, the professionals in the Ontario emergency management community have been telling the province for years that the legislation and the regulations are wrong. There are many inconsistencies, useless actions, and poorly defined requirements.

Take the critical infrastructure identification for example. If you base your definition of critical infrastructure on the sectors suggested, you need to include food as a critical need and all infrastructure related to food production and distribution should be on that list. All CEMCs should then have a list of all farmers, grocery stores, and other food-handling companies in the municipality. The list should contain emergency phone numbers for each and be maintained at least annually.  However, once we have the list, there is no indication of when we should use it and how. Since 99% of the critical infrastructure is in the hands of private entreprise, CEMCs have no power to enforce any kind of critical infrastructure protection. So why are we doing this?

Take public education as another example. The regulation says we have to do public education in our community. There is no clear definition of what public education should include. So having a web page with a couple of suggestions on personal preparedness could in principle be enough to fulfill the requirement.

On the other hand, when it comes to training, the requirements are very stringent with a list of course that must be taken by key people. These courses must be offered by EMO certified trainers and must follow the EMO curriculum to the letter. The fact that municipalities have very different structures especially when rural communities are compared to large urban ones, implies that the one size fits all approach of these courses does not work, yet all CEMCs must follow exactly the same training program.

There are also inconsistencies in the regulation when trying to apply the IMS model. The regulation talks about having a control group and suggest that members of the senior management of the community should be part of this group. However, looking at IMS, there is a big difference between the control group and the policy group. The first is composed of the leaders of each of the various teams within the IMS along with the EOC director, the PIO, and a few select advisors such as the solicitor. The policy group is where senior management should be sitting with a few other key players.

So being compliant is very much left up to interpretation. In my community, we have been providing scribe training for a number of years. We realized after a few exercises and a couple of real emergencies that trying to keep notes and logs while making decisions and coordinating action plans is nearly impossible. In decision-making positions, the priority is on taking action and giving instructions, not on log-keeping. So the logs and notes are often incomplete.  To remedy this, we created scribe positions in our EOC and ensured that designated scribes received the proper training. We brought in consultants to train on a one-day course with an exercise scenario and a mock inquiry. Currently we have about 40 staff members that have received this training. This approach frees up the CEMCs and other key decision-makers while still ensuring a high level of log-keeping and documentation.

The Elliot Lake Inquiry report addressed the issue of incomplete note-taking and recommended actions to ensure a higher level of note-taking for all emergency response and emergency management functions. In reaction to these recommendations, the province created a 10 slide course called note-taking. That course became mandatory without any consultation. When my community submitted that we did not require the note-taking course because we had a different approach as explained above, someone at OFMEM arbitrarily decided that our approach was unacceptable and included our community in the 32% of non-compliant communities.

So what? I believe my community is more than compliant because we have gone beyond the requirements of the regulations. Most of what the legislation and regulation demands in Ontario is actually very basic. Back in 2001, the plan was to bring in three levels of emergency management programs, an essential level, and enhanced level, and a comprehensive level. It would be up to the municipality to determine how much resources they were ready to commit to achieve the second and third levels while the first was going to be mandatory.  Fifteen years later, the province is still trying to get a grasp of what should be in the essential level. Fortunately a number of municipalities have gone beyond the essential and are actually implementing elements of what was considered for the other two levels. That’s called due diligence.

The good thing with due diligence is that there is no need for a carrot or a stick. When the donkey needs to eat, drink or get away from the heat, it will naturally move forward. Communities that voluntarily adopt enhanced or comprehensive emergency management programs, have no need for carrots or sticks.

My suggestion for 2016 is this. If instead of having 32% of municipalities in Ontario being on-compliant, we actually have all communities – that’s 100% – simply refuse to submit a compliance form. Maybe we will get a bit more attention from the Ministry. We can then ask the province to sit down with the CEMCs at a general meeting and agree to modify the regulation to fit accepted principles of emergency management rather than arbitrary and reactionary provisions. Instead of creating regulations that need all sorts of interpretation, let’s sit down as a profession and come up with a plan to make Ontario communities resilient without needing carrots or sticks.