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 www.teamrubiconcan.org.

by Amber Rushton

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

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

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

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

Food for Thought

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

 

Sources:

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

Within a brief career span thus far, I have had the pleasure of serving the Emergency Management community in various capacities: an emergency responder/hazardous materials technician responding to confined space entry rescue needs across Ontario and hazardous materials events throughout the country; a technical advisor informing public and private stakeholders of current health and safety practices and providing technical chemical knowledge; an environmental scientist developing strategic emergency preparedness initiatives alongside an innovative team to further enhance emergency management across Canada; a member of local Community Awareness and Emergency Response groups working for a safe and informed public; a Chair on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers offering strategic guidance to the organization.

It is through these interdisciplinary channels that I have interfaced with great leaders and mentors to which I owe a lot of my continued growth and development to. One transferable quality that I have witnessed in many emergency management professionals can simply be summarized into one word: compassion. Burkina Faso

It is this innate sense of compassion that drives those throughout our emergency management community to serve others; a desire to help. It is through shared volunteer experiences with esteemed colleagues serving a variety of industries and public, and engagement with great intellects surrounding this topic, that I encourage emergency management professionals to not only hold on to that sense of compassion, but to challenge yourselves to view the profession as a community based process in which we all serve in various ways; to continue to build resiliency throughout our physical infrastructure and its social constructs.

There are a number of ways to engage with diverse community members. Working with refugees one might learn from their courage, strength, and resolve when faced with unimaginable adversity. Youth organizations and leaders of tomorrow might teach us something about creativity and passion. Special populations encompass the margins of our society, each with a unique set of needs that necessitate dependency and varied resiliency across communities, illustrating a need for a flexible, robust emergency management system. In a broader global sense, international humanitarian efforts can enhance cultural intelligence and offer an appreciation for innovation when resources are scarce.

The indirect correlation between the aforementioned volunteer efforts and the profession of emergency management is the ability to recognize the community in which one serves (local and/or global) in all its adversity and strength before an emergency or a disaster strikes. To cultivate an aptitude for our physical infrastructure as well as our social construction pre-emergency or disaster will enhance the overall intellect of emergency management professionals and diversify the interoperability between the emergency management community and the communities in which we serve.