Dear Colleagues, fellow Emergency Management Professionals,

You may have seen the communications from the IAEM Canada board asking for nominations to the executive position of the IAEM Ontario Region. If you are like me and interested in the future of the emergency management profession, you probably had questions about this Ontario Region. I did, so I asked and found out thatseven Ontario emergency management professionals with good standing as membersof IAEM Canada had sent a request for the creation of this IAEM Ontario Region.

The IAEM Bylaw allows this as long as there is no existing region in the same province and as long as there are a minimum of six signatures on the request. The IAEM Canada board is now obligated to follow through on the request.

My concern is on how this will impact the profession in Ontario. I would like to have a discussion on this with as many of you as possible. I especially would like to hear the reasoning of the seven people who submitted the request. I do not know who they are and the IAEM Board respects the privacy of its members.

I am neither on the board of IAEM Canada nor OAEM although I have been active on both. While I hold a membership in both, I have no personal interest in either association, but I care for the profession. This is why I would like to invite you for a town hall meeting on the topic on January 22nd 2019, from 9am to noon, at the Century Gardens Community Centre, 340 Vodden Street East in Brampton. I know this is short term but the election for these positions has tobe done within three weeks of the request, so we have little time to discuss this. Brampton will be providing coffee and tea, with muffins and light snacks.

Please note that I will not tolerate the negative criticism of either IAEM or OAEM or any other organization for that matter including disparaging comments regarding board members, staff or executives.

To get an idea of how many people will attend, please send me a quick rsvp e-mail at

Town Hall meeting on the future of the emergency management profession in Ontario
January22, 2019, 09h00,
Century Gardens Community Centre,
340 Vodden Street East,Brampton


Alain Normand, Emergency Management Professional

By Thomas Appleyard

Program evaluation informs practitioners, funders and researchers on the efficacy of interventions. Standard program evaluation methods emphasise desired outcomes and pre-identified criteria for success. Program evaluators stress establishing SMART goals: specific, measureable, agreed upon, realistic and time-bound. 

These standard program evaluation methods do not apply well for emergency responders who must thrive in a volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. 

What would SMART goals have looked like on 9/11? Was undertaking an unplanned maritime evacuation of 500,000 people off Manhattan Island within nine hours a realistic goal? Was establishing Union Square as the site for New Yorkers to grieve and to share information and food part of an agreed-upon goal? (No – the City shut this operation down after several days).

A problem with SMART goals for emergency managers is they limit possibilities. Here is the goal-setting language effective emergency responders used on 9/11:

  • “Please do what you can for these people. Come out, lend a hand, anything you can do will be accepted.” – Gander Newfoundland Mayor Claude Elliott
  • “We don’t know what we’re gonna see, we don’t know what we’re gonna do, but we’re gonna go.” – tugboatman Ken Peterson
  • “You ready? Okay. Let’s roll.”– United 93 passenger Todd Beamer

Instead of squeezing emergency response efforts into standard program evaluation methods, here are two approaches to program evaluation emergency responders can take:

  • Know what you are good at and evaluate that. 
  • Know the competencies required to thrive in a VUCA world (e.g., initiative, improvisation, empathy, creativity) and evaluate them.

By Julie Chambers (Education Director)                                                                                                                 

Calling all Seasoned EM/BC Professionals, Students and Early Career Professionals! Registration for the OAEM Mentorship Program has re-opened.

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

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

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

Review from Serenna Besserer (OAEM Mentor 2016 – 2018):

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

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

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

If you have any questions, please contact

Calling all OAEM student members,

Are you an ambitious, driven and creative individual? Do you have new ideas on how OAEM can better serve Ontario’s students and the EM community? Would you like to take on a lead role in connecting Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM) students to professionals and opportunities within the DEM field? Are you looking to get involved? OAEM wants you!

OAEM is looking for a Student Board Member who will serve from November 2018 to August 2019. If the above appeals to you, then we would like to hear from you!

– You do need to be an Ontario-based student enrolled in a Disaster and Emergency Management Program
– You need to be a Student Member of OAEM

Please send a 250-400 word Statement of Interest and a copy of your Resume to no later than Friday, November 9, 2018.

We look forward to your applications.

**You need to be an OAEM Student Member to apply. If you are not, please sign up here**

Good luck!

Nicole Pinto
Education Director
OAEM Board of Directors

 By Jim Montgomery

 The City of Ottawa, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for the development, implementation and coordination of the City’s Emergency Management Program (EMP). 

The Ottawa Emergency Management Program exceeds the legislated requirements of the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), and adheres to the internationally developed and voluntary compliance requirements of the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). 

The City of Ottawa, as the Nation’s Capital City, recognized in 2016 that it would be host to national celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation. In preparation for a multitude of significant special events, training was undertaken to ensure collaboration among all partners and stakeholders in planning for the events. The training was developed and designed to ensure capability and capacity for the events in relation to the identified threats, hazards and risks. 

To validate the training, a full-scale exercise (FSX) was developed to validate the capability and capacity of the partners and stakeholders. The concept for the FSX was that there would be numerous operational periods and at least one staffing change. 

Identification and engagement of the partners and stakeholders who would fulfill functional roles and responsibilities during the FSX continued, and eventually led to over 31 agencies expressing interest in participating. Of particular note is that there was international, national, provincial and local interest from private and public agencies. 

In collaboration with the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, with the assistance of Public Safety Canada’s National Exercise Program, a proposal for financial funding was submitted. The financial funding was approved with in-kind funding from all of the partners and stakeholders. 

The Canadian Army Simulation Centre was contracted to develop, facilitate and evaluate the FSX. Partners and stakeholders provided subject matter expertise, with representatives on the Exercise Design Team (EDT). The EDT was responsible to identify the overall objectives of the FSX, and how their agencies functional responsibilities would support the achievement of those objectives. The focus of the FSX was to validate collaboration among emergency response and management entities in the National Capital, measured by the degree of coordination, cooperation and communication (C3) demonstrated. 

Exercise Ottawa C3 took place on Thursday May 4th, and ran for 20+ hours with multiple sites and levels of decision centres (federal, provincial, municipal and private). The initial hazard was that initiated the FSX was an earthquake with cascading impacts and consequences that continued to manifest throughout the exercise. The exercise utilized emergency management subject matter experts from seven Canadian municipalities (Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver) to evaluate the various decision centres’ processes and operations; a first in Canada. 

The C3 Exercise was a tremendous success; an After-Action Report was completed, with the observations leading to implementation of corrective actions. 

The Office of Emergency Management is making available to members of OAEM the exercise related documentation, please contact Jim.Montgomery@Ottawa.CA 

Coming out of the 2018 OAEM election at our Annual General Meeting in May, our board is organized and ready for another season of delivering the training, access, representation and networking that our membership has come to expect.


Our strategy going forward from the AGM is to have a board executive that can enable the remaining directors to focus on collaboratively delivering on specific focus areas for our membership.

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By Geoff Coulson

Hosted by Conservation Ontario, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Committee the 2018 Ontario Flood Risk Management Workshop is targeted to professionals and academia working in flood risk management. It provides an opportunity for you to collaborate, educate and share experiences. This year’s Workshop will take place from 19 to 20 September 2018 at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton Ontario.

The workshop offers two concurrent streams featuring a diverse lineup of speakers and expertise. The first stream will focus on Flood Risk Prevention and Mitigation showcasing a wide variety of municipal and agency projects and works in Ontario. The second stream, titled Preparedness, Response and Recovery, will feature specific work and experiences from emergency management professionals.
The Workshop provides content derived from the insurance sector, provincial and municipal agencies and also explores public sector perspectives.

Register Here/Agenda:

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.