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.

By Alain Normand

When I worked for the Public Safety Services in Gatineau, I remember an event where Fire Services was called to a home for an active fire. When they arrived on scene, they found out this was the home of one of the firefighters. The family was safe, but the home was compromised. In the debriefing after the response was over, it became evident that this had been a very different incident response than any usual fire call. The firefighters had taken risks they would not normally take because this home belonged to one of their own. They went beyond the call of duty to try and save that home. They worked faster to contain the fire and took shortcuts putting their own safety at risk. They tried to minimize the water damage by installing pumps while the fire was still active. They reached for a few items in the home that they felt could have special meaning to the family and moved them outside to protect them. While the team was reprimanded to a certain extent for not following protocols, it became evident that their actions were different when dealing with the home of one of their colleagues.

Emergency management has been concentrating in responding to emergencies that affect our citizens with little to no regards to situations affecting our own operations. What if an emergency now affects one of our key facility? Do we respond in the same way? Should we respond with the same protocols?

The quick answer may be that this is the responsibility of the business continuity unit. Experience has shown us however that the continuity of operations units in governments – if there is one at all – focus on developing contingency plans or recovery plans. The response aspect is rarely included in the mix. The idea is to relocate people, to transfer operations somewhere else, to maintain IT functions, to continue serving our customers. Rarely are the plans inclusive of the response function. Who works with the first responders in the initial phases to ensure that staff are all accounted for? Who communicates to staff on the situation and lets them know the details of the incident? Even more important, how do we ensure that we have enough resources to take care of the emergency that affects both our citizens and our own operations?

A major power outage, a tornado strike, a pandemic, or a flood, may have impacts both internally and externally. As these emergencies grow in magnitude and impact, it becomes evident that these situations of dual impact will become more common.

I am a believer in the IMS system. At the same time, I find that the IMS system doesn’t go far enough. There is too much of ICS in the system which concentrates on doing tasks to protect the life and health of people affected, then the property and the environment. It does this with no differentiation whether the impact is on residents or on government property. Business continuity people will likely tell you that the faster you start on contingency implementation or recovery operations, the better your chances of minimizing downtime and reducing financial impacts. Yet, first responders will roll out the yellow tape by the kilometre if they feel it is the right thing to do.

This is why we have modified our IMS org chart. Beyond the traditional command, operations, planning, logistics, and finance/administration teams, we grafted an incident management team. This team is the same that responds to internal incidents that do not involve emergency responders. When we have a cyber attack, a pipe burst, or a labour disruption, the team comes together to start implementing contingency and recovery plans. That same team is now called into the EOC during other emergencies to assess and take action in coordination with the rest of the EOC teams.

This team, composed of specialists from IT, HR, Facilities, Security, Communications, and Business Continuity, plays a number of roles in the EOC. First, they raise awareness to the first responders of their own need. They can coordinate access to sensitive equipment, they can obtain access to facilities to shut off building systems or equipment, and they can direct first responders for increased efficiency and speed in their containment of the situation. They have first hand information on the situation, the actions being taken, and they can evaluate the impact on operations right there from the EOC. They can communicate with staff and provide authoritative instructions on what employees should be doing about the situation. They can coordinate the timing of their recovery with that of the EOC-led response. They can make sure that resources are allocated to their plans and not all go to the external response.

While most private organization that have a business continuity plan will coordinate their response all from the internal point of view, municipal governments are different. We have to coordinate both the internal and the external at the same time. The IMS system is lacking in that it has an external focus only. We have modified it so it now has both. I believe other municipal governments should consider combining resources from the emergency management side and the business continuity side to this revised IMS organizational chart.

Like they tell you on the planes, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. In our training, we tell staff that they should have a personal preparedness plan. If they are called to take action during an emergency, we don’t want them to be worried about their families. Take care of your own first, then come and help us take care of the situation, is what we teach.

As a municipal government, if our operations are compromised, we want to make sure we have the ability to maintain our critical services first, then work towards resolving the situation. Having an Incident Management Team in the EOC allows us to do this.

As a consultant, I’ve been fortunate to see an increasing number of organizations accept that they need to improve their ability to respond to a range of emergencies and disruptions. While this shift has been slow, it’s becoming commonplace to see diverse organizations adopting the practices and methodologies that emergency managers have used for years, ranging from the creation of dedicated business continuity positions, to the widespread adoption of the incident command system. While I’m not ready to unfurl a mission accomplished banner, I can at least say that the majority of my clients are beginning to realize that having some level of internal emergency management capacity is no longer optional.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my colleagues in the area of cyber-security, who have viewed this change in attitudes with envious eyes, and have begun to display the signs of frustration that were so common among emergency managers a few years ago. While the work of preventing cyber-attacks and breaches from occurring is a never-ending battle, I have noticed that few organizations have integrated their cyber-security and emergency management functions effectively…or at all. In most cases, cyber-security experts know how to respond to breaches at a tactical level, and problems arise when an inexperienced leadership team tries to respond to these events like they are “business as usual”.

In general, this is a result of how organizations tend to structure emergency management and cyber-security during routine operations. In most cases emergency management professionals are located within a health and safety portfolio, while cyber-security tends to fall under IT, and never the twain shall meet. However, there is a solution to this, one that I’m starting to see gain traction in several high-reliability organizations. Simply put, aligning these organizations within a well-developed incident management system can ensure that an organization is as effective at responding to network breaches as it is when dealing with fires and floods.

While the type of incident management practiced by municipal firefighters using the Incident Command System may not be the best fit for dealing with hackers, the foundational principles of these methodologies (management by objectives, chain of command, integrated communications, etc.) can still increase the effectiveness of organizations dealing with cyber-attacks. After all, it’s difficult for cyber-security experts to isolate a breach when they’re being bombarded with frantic emails from all levels of the organization. The trick is to ensure senior leaders understand that a disruption, regardless of the cause, is not business as usual. This can often be difficult, but if leaders can ensure their teams adhere to the discipline of an established system, they can ensure a better response overall.