By Douglas Grant

Communities are well aware of the importance of festivals as places to socialize, unwind and spend time with friends and family. At a recent forum hosted by the City of Markham and Calian Emergency Management, professionals discussed some of the challenges and solutions regarding festivals and their resources for emergency planning.

The day-long forum held in Markham in May touched on several important issues in emergency management for community events. It included presentations on policing tactics (Lisa Boon, York Region Police), festivals (Dr. Christine Van Winkle, University of Manitoba), weather planning (Ron Bianchi, Met-Ocean Services), food safety (Becky Hester, York Region Public Health), training exercises (myself) and large crowd planning (Alain Normand, Brampton Emergency Management Office). Here, I’d like to focus on some of the material presented by Dr. Van Winkle, a professor who specializes in recreation and tourism management.

While Dr. Van Winkle presented some telling research indicating how unprepared many festivals are, the forum itself was a positive signal that professionals are recognizing the need for more attention on emergency preparedness.

Dr. Van Winkle discussed the results of her 2016 study that surveyed 446 festival and event administrators in Canada and the U.S. It found about one third of festivals have operating budgets of less than $50,000 and most are non-profits. The most commonly reported number of full-time staff was zero, and the median was one full-time, permanent employee. Festivals tend to take place over the course of more than one day, and outside in a public space such as a park. With very few staff and a large number of volunteers, there can be a lack of emergency planning.

“These organizations are often operating with very few resources and accomplishing an awful lot. You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck from festival organizations. They’re excellent at using resources across festivals and events and partnering with communities,” Dr. Van Winkle said during her presentation. “But they’re also very vulnerable to emergencies.”

Dr. Van Winkle initiated a separate study a few years ago about festivals and safety and security. Preliminary data gathered in an email survey of 18 festivals found some of them reported having protocols for missing children or severe weather, but most did not have full emergency management plans – and some didn’t have a sense that they should have one.

Calian is happy to be supporting a new research project by Dr. Van Winkle, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which is looking at social media communications during festival emergencies. For this study Dr. Van Winkle is leading research on the use of social media communications by festivals during specific human-induced, technical or natural emergencies that caused a festival or festival program to be halted. Dr. Van Winkle has identified research questions as: How are groups communicating with each other? What’s effective? What’s not effective? Who’s connected to whom, and how was information travelling through the social network? The findings of this study, she added, could be relevant to festivals around the world.

It is now recognized that social media communications can be critical to the safety of festival-goers during emergencies. People want their mobile devices with them at festivals and events, helping them to stay connected as well as for comfort and safety – which makes mobile communications an ideal emergency communication tool at events. Effective use of social media could significantly improve communications for events – during, before and after an emergency.

In the aftermath of an event emergency, one of the issues that can arise is a “blame game.” Dr. Van Winkle raised the example of the Love Parade music festival tragedy in Germany, where 21 people died and hundreds were injured after a crush of festival-goers attempted to leave a crowded festival area. Reports indicated that the number of people at the 2010 event had exceeded its capacity of about 250,000.

As Dr. Van Winkle noted, the disaster resulted in blame getting tossed between the police, the organizers and the city – which is unhelpful. In fact it raises an important issue in responsibility for emergency planning for events. While police may look to event organizers to have some planning in place, organizers may believe emergency management is the responsibility of government agencies and police.

What is really needed is not blaming or a finding of culpability, but better communication and coordination between agencies and community organizations to ensure they are working toward the same goal. While resources may be an issue for many festivals, it is vital that they be in contact with their municipal emergency management office. As Dr. Van Winkle suggests, festivals could also make an effort to recruit emergency management volunteers – people who could take the lead on festival emergency preparedness.

Open communications between all people involved is the first step to improving responsiveness, safety and security. Table-top exercises, even for small organizations, are a good option for testing communications, coordination and actions during emergency scenarios.

Overall I am happy to see that professionals from all sides are recognizing these challenges and coming together to find solutions. By communicating and collaborating with community agencies and groups, festivals can work toward ensuring there are plans and procedures in place that maintain festivals as vibrant, safe and fun spaces within our communities.

Compliance versus emergency management best practice

By Alain Normand

Speed limits on roads are supposed to be there for our safety. Over time, most of us – even the good drivers – have pushed the limit and drive much faster than the posting. We slow down and follow limits usually when there is a police car around. Instead of focusing on our safety on the roads, we focus on the compliance to the legislation for fear of penalty.

I see the same thing happening to a certain extent in the emergency management field. When the province developed the regulations for municipalities to have emergency management programs, the goal was to ensure all municipalities had an essential level of preparedness to cope with emergencies. Today, for many municipalities, the compliance is all about the checkmarks. Why do municipalities do a HIRA? Because the province requires them to do one. In the recent discussion at the engagement sessions set up by OFMEM, this topic came up. I know the people at OFMEM took notes and plan to act on it, I just want to make sure this is heard.

Doing a HIRA shouldn’t be about having a document to send to OFMEM at the end of the year. The HIRA should be the tool upon which your emergency management program rests. Your focus should be about prevention, mitigation, and preparedness for those higher risks identified through the HIRA. But if this is only a document you send to OFMEM once a year, and file into the archives, then you are not doing emergency management. You are following the speed limit only because the police car is there, not for your own safety.

A corollary of this is how I want to tailor my HIRA. If the HIRA is a tool for me to identify the emergencies upon which I am going to take action, towards which I will devote resources and time, then I want to prepare a HIRA that is meaningful. Since I know that there are some of those hazards on the list that I can do nothing about, why should I keep them on the list? The list may be useful for the province since there is the likelihood of any of these hazards occurring at least in one part of the province; for my municipality, not so much.

I am not talking here of avalanches, space objects, or tsunamis. I am referring to emergencies that can happen in my community but for which I have no resources or authority. Take terrorism for example. This is entirely a police matter. Police doesn’t even tell me what they are doing, at what level do they evaluate the risk, or what resources they are attributing to it. So if I can’t do anything about it except wait until the consequences to coordinate the clean up, then why should it be on my HIRA? Leave this for a police driven HIRA and keep it out of mine.

Take pandemics and epidemics. It is a public health response. I have no clinics, no medical professionals, and no medication, so there is nothing I can do about it except maybe a bit of business continuity. Why must I keep this on my HIRA? Leave it for a public health driven HIRA and keep it out of mine.

For those types of situation, my emergency management program becomes a support, not the lead. For those who tell me I still have to prepare for the consequences, I agree and that’s just it. I plan for the consequence management, not the cause so not prevention or mitigation. But consequence management for a terrorist event to me is the same as consequence management for an industrial explosion. I have victims that need to be treated, properties that have damages, people that are displaced, debris to be picked up, and traffic to be rerouted. Consequence management for a pandemic to me is the same as a labour disruption. I have people who can’t come to work, operations that are working on reduced staffing and some operations may be closed altogether.

Part of the difficulty as well lies with the impression that we do the HIRA with response in mind. The HIRA is actually more useful in terms of prevention and mitigation than response. I use all hazards response plans; these will be very similar regardless of the cause of the emergency. The HIRA doesn’t do a lot for me at that stage. I will use the HIRA however, if it tells me that putting a berm or a dam in one location will reduce the risk of flooding. I will use the HIRA if it tells me I should plant native species of trees that are more resistant to ice storm conditions.

This also leads me to the legislation that requires upper tier and lower tier municipalities to have matching programs. I dare to say that my HIRA should look nothing like the HIRA at the upper tier because we have very different focus in the delivery of services to our citizens, different categories of involvement within our communities and even different types of relationships with our citizens and businesses. I have community centres that can be used for sheltering but I don’t have clinics. I have firefighting equipment but no ambulances. The legislation must stop trying to put us all in the same basket and let us work towards regional programs that let the upper tier and the lower tier negotiate how together they will comply to legislation and more importantly, how they will manage emergencies within the overall jurisdiction.

I believe OFMEM needs to move from a mentality of compliance for the sake of the legislation and move towards promoting compliance for the sake of doing emergency management. There is a change happening at OFMEM and I am enthusiastic about it. That change needs to include a philosophy of being there as a promoter, not an enforcer. OFMEM needs to be there to provide tools, support, advice, education, training, and possibly funding so that municipalities use the compliance elements as tools for their own community to become safer rather than just the need to put the check mark in the box.

The series of engagement session were a good start in that direction and the various committees established through the OFMEM portfolios should continue that effort. Understanding the value of speed limits for our own safety has more to do with education than enforcement. I drive at a speed that I know I can maintain control of my vehicle, not necessarily the posted limit. Which means I drive slower in poor road conditions and at night. The speed limit doesn’t tell me to do that, the education about driving in bad road conditions does.







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 University 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 Emergency Management Office 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), is granted to a student who has made significant contributions to the field of Emergency Management while maintaining a high level of academic excellence ($1,500).

Alain 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 has been the Emergency Manager for the City of Brampton, since 1999. Apart from being the past-President of 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 and practice, while maintaining a high level of academic excellence ($500).



Brian Hook Memorial Award Winner: Sarah Greenberg from York University

Sarah Greenberg has a Bachelor of Science in physical geography in the geomatics stream and a minor in psychology from the University of Manitoba. She worked as GIS specialist at a consulting engineering firm in Winnipeg, Manitoba for four years. Through volunteering on the disaster management team for the Canadian Red Cross she discovered the joy of humanitarian work and helping those during a time of crisis. Sarah is currently completing her masters at York University in Disaster and Emergency Management and is enjoying learning about the academic aspect of emergency management. Sarah is the Disaster and Emergency Management Student’s Association (DEMSA) president and works hard to bring academic, networking, and practical opportunities to her fellow students. Within the emergency management field she is interested in planning and response, and public information.

(From left to right, Sarah Greenberg and Michael Hook [son of Major Brian Hook])





Normand Academic Award Winner: Colby Mauer from Royal Roads University

Colby is currently a student at Royal Roads University in the Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management (MADEM) program. Her academic career started at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON, studying her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology with a Sociology minor. In 2015, she received a post graduate certificate in Emergency Management which prompted her to continue in the field with a master’s education. Colby currently works as a Health and Safety and Human Resource Coordinator at a welding fabrication plant. Additionally, she continues to professionally develop as a volunteer with Red Cross and Victim Services Ontario. She enjoys her volunteer work and is dedicated to being an advocator of emergency preparedness within her community. With her MADEM education, Colby hopes to pursue her passion in contributing to the advancement of research and collaboration between the disaster and environmental fields.

(From left to right, Nicole Normand, Colby Mauer and Alain Normand)





President’s Award Winner: Lee Morrow from Royal Roads University

Lee Morrow is an expected graduate of the Masters of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management program at Royal Roads University this coming September 2018.  Growing up in Vancouver with little family support or fostering of education, Lee earned his achievements as a mature student.  Academically, he has placed significant emphasis on post-secondary education and the importance of self-improvement; completing a college diploma in Police Foundations at Mohawk College and Undergraduate Degree in Criminology at Wilfred Laurier University.  His time at Royal Roads has fostered continued curiosity and passion for the field of emergency management and its limitless possibilities.  Lee has intentionally chosen career and volunteer opportunities that proactively contribute to the progress and protection of our communities.  Lee is currently an active volunteer, supports the emergency management team of his home municipality in Burlington, ON, and has been employed as a Federal Police Officer for 8 years. Lee is proud to accept the President’s Award from the OAEM, rewarding Lee’s work, perseverance and expanding aspirations.

(From left to right, past-President Alain Normand, Lee Morrow and current President Mike O’Brien)


Team Rubicon Canada, a new volunteer organization brings new capabilities by utilizing the skills and experience of military veterans, emergency services responders and medical professionals to help communities bridge the gap between response and recovery. Last month I had the opportunity to deploy on Operation Great One in Brantford, Ontario with Team Rubicon Canada to help the community recover from the flooding that prompted an emergency declaration and evacuations the month prior.

Team Rubicon Canada occupies a different space in the volunteer sector than many of the traditional NGOs that Emergency Managers in Ontario are used to. The ability to rapidly deploy self-sufficient teams to safely and professionally mitigate and recover from the physical damage of the emergency is a step away from the traditional volunteer roles in supporting the social support needs of a community in crisis. A disciplined use of IMS/ICS also helps the Team Rubicon Incident Commander and General Staff integrate seamlessly with their municipal counterparts, and ensures that operations are briefed, approved, and all of the operational data is available for the municipality after the deployment is complete. Team Rubicon Canada is also a member of the NGO Alliance in Ontario, so these capabilities will soon be reflected in the NGO handbook for Community Emergency Management Coordinators.

In Brantford, Team Rubicon Canada’s Operation Great One was focused on augmenting the forestry crews that were working on the cleanup along the shoreline of the Grand River, which was heavily impacted by the flood waters. This effort to thin out and remove tree debris will also serve to mitigate future flooding as it fits into the municipal strategy of reducing the tree density on the major curves of the watercourse that were a contributing cause of ice jam blockages in the first place.

With 17 volunteers in Brantford, Team Rubicon Canada was able to provide 657 hours of chainsaw “sawyer” work valued at $28,500. The results of this one-week operation was the clearing of 1200 linear meters of waterside trails and 656 cubic meters of debris.

For more information on Team Rubicon Canada, visit

Please see below a notice of Annual General Meeting of Members of the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers, along with a proxy voting form for members who cannot attend.

Past members whose memberships need to be renewed can do so by visiting the OAEM website and renewing online.



3:00 pm (EDT)

Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) Fire & Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI)

2025 Courtneypark Drive East, Toronto, Ontario

for the purposes of conducting such business as must come before an annual meeting of the members

If you cannot attend the AGM, you are encouraged to complete and return this proxy. You may assign a voting member in good standing to vote on your behalf, or failing that, assign the current Secretary, Paul Hassanally, to vote on your behalf.

I, the  UNDERSIGNED, hereby confirm that I am a voting member in good standing of OAEM and appoint the following:

Secretary, Paul Hassanally

OR, I appoint the following member in good standing:

Name: _____________________________________________________

as PROXY, with power of substitution, to attend and vote for the undersigned at the above meeting for such business as may

properly come before the meeting.

I HEREBY REVOKE any PROXY previously given and confirm that should I be present, this PROXY shall be null and void.

Dated this ____________day of _____________________________, 2018.

Member’s Name: (Please Print) ______________________________________

Signature: _____________________________________________________

To be valid, this PROXY must be received no later than 12:00 noon,

By Carl Mavromichalis
Managing Director, Converso and Associate,
CS&A Crisis Management International
What if I told you that there is technology available that can handle a live, 2-way conversation with hundreds or thousands of participants at once without hearing everyone talking at the same time? And what if I told you that you could call them all, rather than them having to call in? This does exist and it has been an incredible tool when used in a major crisis.

The city of Fort McMurray was evacuated May 4, 2016, just before a massive forest fire hit the city. The damage caused by the fire became Canada’s costliest natural disaster ever, with approximately 2,200 structures within the city destroyed. The total is estimated to have cost C$3.5-billion.

The forced evacuation of 90,000 people with no casualties directly related to the fire was truly miraculous. But the government then faced an enormous communications challenge – how exactly does one communicate with that many people who have dispersed across the province and the country to provide critical information? Add in the fact that many people needed support accessing basic human necessities, and the situation again had the potential to be catastrophic.

Government leaders were communicating through traditional channels, like the media, to inform the evacuees of the latest developments, the status of the fire and plans for re-entry. The government was also very active on social media. But all of these channels did not enable a means by which the government could speak directly, and only, to evacuees. So the government turned to Converso’s Virtual Town Halls, a mass-scale conferencing technology that essentially turns the phone system into a live talk-show.

The system proved so useful that the government ran 17 events in 30 days during the evacuation period, leading up to re-entry. Each session was 90-minutes long (rather than the normal 60 minutes) and had extremely high participation and engagement rates compared to non-crisis events. The government’s priority was to allow evacuees to ask questions of the nearly 15 government officials and partner organizations (e.g. Canadian Red Cross) who gathered for each call. And ask questions they did – over 8,000 through 17 events.

This is an extraordinary example, and it clearly illustrates the point that a direct channel to tens of thousands of people impacted by a disaster is a remarkably powerful tool. And the participation rates prove it was invaluable to evacuees as well.

The top five reasons you should consider mass-scale conferencing technology as part of your crisis management plan are:

  1. There is no replacement for a direct information channel to your most important stakeholders during a crisis. 
  • Evacuees heard directly from government officials with the most up-to-date knowledge of the situation, including status of the fire, location of evacuation centres, how to access emergency funding, etc.
  1. Helping people understand what is happening and resolving their issues is critical.
  • Through the question asked by evacuees, the government and Red Cross were able to start resolving individual cases that participants raised. For example, accessing emergency funding from Alberta while not in the province.
  1. Ensuring you get the right information out quickly.
  • Having all of the government leaders responsible for the crisis response on the town hall meant that the most accurate and timely information available was received by evacuees in an unfiltered way. These were the same leaders speaking with the media to provide updates, and evacuees had a direct channel to them.
  1. Dispelling misinformation.
  • On nearly every event, evacuees brought up matters that they had heard on social media or through friends and family. If the information was inaccurate, the government was able to clarify and correct it for everyone on the town hall. For example, people had been hearing rumours that looting was happening in the city, but the police, who were on the call, corrected the information and confirmed there were no break-ins.
  1. Understanding clearly what issues or challenges stakeholders are struggling with during the crisis.
  • There is a massive need for information in any crisis, particularly the kind that threatens the well-being of stakeholders. With 1,000 question requests in the first event (about 35 were answered), evacuees were in acute need of information. By capturing the questions and forwarding a file the next day to the government, highly-targeted FAQs were created and guided messaging for media activity and call-centre briefings.

As with most matters, preparation is everything in a crisis. The Government of Alberta had experience using this technology during non-crisis times, which made its application during the crisis so successful. Such tools are designed to facilitate communication during crises. Therefore, organisations considering this technology must ensure they are familiar with it before the crisis strikes – because during is the wrong time to learn.

While this example demonstrates how a government very effectively handled a disaster response situation, this technology would be equally valuable to companies experiencing a crisis.

  • Employee Communications – engaging with hundreds or thousands of employees across vast geographies in a controlled, live, two-way conversation during a crisis would enable the response team and company leadership to ensure accurate information is disseminated in very quickly.
  • External Stakeholder Communications – should a crisis impact a community (think a train derailment or chemical leak) or key segment of your business (think VW and its dealers during the diesel emissions scandal), the technology would enable an immediate and live connection with those impacted. This would reduce rumours, demonstrate the company is taking the issue seriously and, long-term, protect brand and reputation.
  • Post-Crisis Business Continuity – once the crisis is contained and the company stabilized, how do you get everyone back on track? How do you rebuild trust and reputation? Connecting with employees and external stakeholders to explain what exactly happened, how things have changed and what the company’s plans are in the future to manage crisis situations, which would have been a great tool for BP following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Adding this tool into your crisis response toolbox will ensure that you have the best chance at getting your most critical messages out quickly and consistently, directly to the people impacted by a crisis. This will ultimately help improve information distribution, reduce confusion and, hopefully, reduce suffering or save lives.

If you have any questions or thoughts on this article feel free to contact Carl at and 416-420-2352

By Suzanne Bernier, CEM, CBCP, MBCI – President of SB Crisis Consulting & Author of Disaster Heroes

After being in the field of emergency management for over twenty years, I’m constantly inspired by and proud of the many achievements and advancements made in the field, thanks to all the dedicated and talented EM and BCP professionals across Ontario and Canada. One area that has seen significant improvements over the years, but is still in need of improvements, is the issue of accessibility during emergencies.

There are now many resources available to help communities and organizations ensure emergency information is more accessible, like those that can be found within this Ontario government website: While we still have a long way to go before crisis information and communications are equally accessible to all during an emergency, the Canadian Hearing Society is helping to achieve that goal.

Thanks to OAEM and the Canadian Hearing Society, I had the recent opportunity to participate in a new pilot project to enhance accessibility during emergency broadcasts across Canada. Specifically, the initiative is designed to demonstrate best pr

actices to interpreters when communicating to Deaf and hard of hearing people during a disaster or emergency situation.

The pilot project consists of two ‘training videos’ or broadcast segments, featuring an on-camera emergency manager making an on-camera statement, while being interpreted by both a deaf and hearing interpreter. For the video segments, I played the role of PIO/Emergency Manager during a major flood emergency.

After reviewing a realistic script based on a major flood scenario and providing a few suggested edits before the taping, we agreed upon a final script that was then sent to the interpreters and producers in advance of the video session.

On March 27, I spent a very productive morning at Bell Media Studios with the leadership team of the Canadian Hearing Society, where our filming session ran extremely smoothly and required only two takes to complete, thanks to our wonderful deaf and hearing interpreters.

The first segment consisted of the PIO (me) and a hearing certified interpreter informing residents of a flooding emergency, including response and recovery operations, actions to be taken, and where to obtain more information.

The second segment was a bit different, with myself and a Deaf-hearing interpreter team repeating the same message. For the Deaf-hearing inter

preter team, the Deaf interpreter is on-camera, while the hearing interpreter is off-camera and signing

American Sign Language (ASL) to the Deaf interpreter. The Deaf interpreter then adapts the ASL to be best suited for a Deaf audience. Before this session, I was not aware of the difference in sign language from a Deaf vs hearing interpreter, which I was told is what the pilot project is intended to demonstrate.

The completed products, two ten-minute broadcast segments, will be evaluated by a panel of experts and will be housed online in a section of the Canadian Hearing Society’s website as part of an ‘action kit’ that will be shared as a national best practice with all broadcasters across the country, and will be accessible online for the next 10 years.

I am honoured to be part of this much-needed initiative to enhance accessibility to the deaf and hard of hearing during emergency broadcasts and notifications. Once the final segments are available online, OAEM will be sure to share the link with all of its members so that it can then be forwarded within your own communities and networks.

Together, we can continue to increase accessibility and safety for ALL during an emergency situation.



By Alain Normand

I attended a discussion the other day about bringing diversity into the fire department. The issue is that firefighters are usually white males and not necessarily representative of the fabric of our community. However, in trying to recruit people with more diversity, Fire Departments encounter huge difficulties. Females need to go through the same testing requirements as male in terms of physical endurance and strength. Although there are women with those abilities – some of those women have ten times my endurance – there are still a lot fewer than men and not all of them want to be firefighters. When it comes to ethnic groups, in speaking with young people, especially from new immigrant families, many of the parents came to Canada because they wanted their children to become doctors and lawyers, not firefighters. So when fire is trying to recruit from these groups, the rate of success is extremely low.

In the Emergency Management field, looking back at the 1990s, the only people that had an inkling about emergency management were police, fire, paramedics and military personnel. They were also male, Caucasian, usually retired and over 50 years old. Move forward to today and diversity comes into play. I didn’t do a study and I don’t have statistics but I look at the mix when I attend workshops and seminars and I see it. There are probably as many females as males. Although there is still a certain preponderance of Caucasian people, there are people of every colours and shades. As well, the average age of the professionals in emergency management has dropped tremendously with the arrival of young people choosing emergency management as their career paths right out of high school.

Not only are we seeing this mix, but we are seeing a lot of people who might have been dismissed in the past, rise up and take the lead. The number of women CEMCs who lead the way in their communities is amazing. I see so many rising stars in emergency management that young people can look up to as models. I won’t name anyone here because I didn’t ask their permission, but look at the female CEMCs in the middle to large communities in the GTA and Golden Horseshoe. Look at the ones in the provincial ministries, including EMO/OFMEM. Those women are showing the way for the coming generations. I regularly speak about them to my students to spur them on. My admiration goes to them, especially the first ones that joined a then male dominated field and forged their career through the hurdles.

The age is also an important factor. My own team in Brampton is young, but they form a dynamic, eager, and driven group of professionals. My good friend James Kilgour – no I didn’t ask his permission, sorry James – is now Director for the Office of Emergency Management for Toronto, the largest city in Canada. He’s not a young adult anymore but he is relatively young for such a prestigious position. I was ecstatic when hearing of his promotion. I see other young people at the head of the emergency management and/or business continuity programs for provincial ministries, utilities consortium, and private organizations.

Particularly in this age of such rapid changes, we need people that will adapt quickly, people technologically savvy, and open to new ideas, concepts, tools and methods. You know the saying: you can’t teach an old dog new trick. So people of my generation have a bit more difficulty in coping with those changes. I rely on the young people on my team to keep me electronically tuned.

I also see variety when it comes to ethnic groups. Maybe we still have a bit of work to do on that side, but we are on the right track. In my opinion, the ethnic diversity will become even more important as

we continue to receive immigrants from all parts of the world bringing with them not only a variety of languages, but also cultural, religious, and values-based diversity. As emergency managers, we need to be ready to cater to their needs.

As an example, the Red Cross has standards when it comes to setting up an evacuation centre. The standard is based on establishing rows of cots, with each cot having an exact number of square feet allocation, all of them lined up with a numbering system by row and columns. This has worked well generally but we are seeing changes. As the Canadian mosaic changes, we are moving from an average family of 4 members to large family clusters. When they arrive at a shelter, they want to stick together. So they move cots around to provide an area where 8 to 10 people can have cots, in a more circular or rectangular arrangements so they can sit on the cots and face each other. We need to be flexible and ready to adapt the standard to allow this to happen. Those people also have different diets and food preparation practices. They may have a need for special religious accommodations, and so on.

These are just a few examples, but I am sure many of you will have similar experiences when dealing with other cultures. That insight into changing our policies and protocols will be easier if the people making those changes are members of those communities in the first place. If at least, we can communicate with the constituents under our care in order to understand their needs, we will be better off. But who better than the people who are already part of that culture to hold those discussion and help adapt our methods.

It is comforting to know that our industry is a very inclusive one. We need to continue promoting this. We need to welcome the minority groups into emergency management and make them a part of our own professional community.

There may be less of us than doctors and lawyers, but our profession is just as important. Let’s enhance it with more diversity. We’ve come a long way but we’re not done.

By Linda Antoniadis

Volunteers are the foundation of most charitable organizations. For the Canadian Red Cross, they are the front line for communities when disaster strikes. They are the “face” of the Red Cross that the community sees in time of disaster. Without the dedication of volunteer responders at any and all times of the day, the Red Cross could not effectively perform its humanitarian mission.

An important part of working with volunteers in disaster management is ensuring they are properly trained and that there are enough of them to support the need when called upon.

Disaster Management (DM) volunteers are committed people who train to become essential community resources in times of emergency, offering a variety of services from setting up emergency shelters to completing needs assessments for clients. Sometimes, simply listening and comforting those who have been affected can be one of the most important parts of the job. They are called on to respond immediately to situations in their communities and sometimes provide support for longer periods of time. People who have a desire to “give back” to society are typical volunteers.

Recently, the Canadian Red Cross conducted volunteer training sessions for 75 new surge capacity volunteers in Toronto and 50 in Montreal over a one-day period. These volunteers are part of the “Ready When The Time Comes” (RWTC) program, which works with corporate partners like Aviva and Bombardier and not-for-profit organizations like FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, to train volunteers who can assist in a surge capacity function when major disasters occur. This program ensures the Canadian Red Cross has qualified, trained volunteers who they can call upon when they require a larger group of volunteers for a short period of time.

A new, “mass” training format was tested during the recent training and has proved to be an efficient way to train volunteers. The overall result was a very inspired group of new surge capacity volunteers.

Whether you are a part of the RWTC program through your employer or community group or join the Red Cross as an individual DM volunteer, the experience is sure to be rewarding. Learn more about these volunteer opportunities at

Linda Antoniadis is a member of the Volunteer Communications Team at the Canadian Red Cross


By Scott Davis 

On January 25, the OAEM hosted a new professional development theme with two engaging speakers, hosted at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto.

The keynote speaker, Heath Applebaum, an international-award-winning crisis and reputation consultant, revealed his 10 Commandments of Reputation Management and shared insights on how we can all effectively help to protect our organizations.

“In this digital age, a contentious issue or crisis can go viral with the click of a mouse.  So, it is essential that we take a proactive approach and prepare companies during the calm before the storm. Too often companies call me once crisis has already surfaced, to douse the proverbial flames, and do damage control.  There is so much more we can do to proactively identify the root causes, develop actionable plans, and train teams to prevent or mitigate the damage.  Ultimately it is about protecting your organization’s most valuable and vulnerable asset, its reputation,” says Applebaum. 

“Media, customers, regulators, tenants, employees, and emergency responders are quick to pass judgement, and rumours spread quickly, so if your organization is not ready to take decisive action and confidently articulate your message, it can have a massive impact,” adds Applebaum.  

 Applebaum recommends that every organization be thoroughly prepared with a tested, deployable crisis communications plan and trained leadership team that can respond at the speed of Twitter.  With the proliferation of online threats to reputation and business   operations, new strategies and tools are required to ensure lightning fast responses to digitally-empowered consumers, sensationalist media, and disengaged employees.  

Applebaum is the President of Echo Communications Inc., a reputation management consulting firm, and has led hundreds of successful programs for organizations of all shapes and sizes including PepsiCo, Cadillac Fairview, Deloitte, RBC Financial Group and MasterCard.  Heath, speaking along side Suzanne Bernier, the author of Disaster Heroes, reviewed specific crisis communications case studies and lessons learned from events in 2017, like  the Las Vegas active shooter tragedy, Equifax hacking, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and other crises, focusing on the different communications challenges faced throughout each event.  

On behalf of everyone at OAEM, we thank everyone for their efforts during this exciting professional development event.