Q&A: Carolyn Salem, Team Lead, Emergency Management, Ontario Ministry of Transportation
By Canadian Security StaffSecurity Resources emroundtable
How can emergency managers (EM) collaborate more effectively and avoid a “silo mentality”?
Well, I think one of the key things that EM professionals should consider doing is participating in some of the established EM associations.
There’s a number of associations that EM professionals could join, and they have members from a vast array of industries and government bodies. And the one that comes to mind initially is the International Association of Emergency Managers Canada.
It’s a great opportunity for EM professionals to connect with industry professionals across the globe, as well as more local to home. And it’s a chance to collaborate on ideas, share information and best practices, explore learning opportunities within the profession, and ultimately help to break down that silo mentality by engaging with other professionals in different industries.
The other thing that I would probably look to if I’m looking from a government lens, is EM professionals that work within the government spheres, should consider doing a reach out to other EM professionals in similar types of ministries. And those could be across the country, different provincial bodies, basically sharing best practices, lessons learned with that specific field of focus to the type of ministry work that that EM professional is doing.
And I think that that would be a great way to allow for some collaboration and lessons learned and breaking down those silos, going from province to province, or even potentially federally, if we had some mechanism for more formalized communication.
Ultimately, what I’d love to see in a perfect world be interprovincial EM working groups, where we would have the ability for ministries with similar mandates to connect in a more established forum, to be able to share those lessons learned and those best practices. And take that information that’s learned in one province and apply it in other provinces for similar types of work.
I work in transportation, so I think about this as a benefit from a transportation related EM perspective, if, you know, we had interprovincial communications happening at an EM transportation level to talk about best practices and lessons learned from disasters experienced in other provinces, and how we could maybe apply some of those lessons learned within the EM framework for transportation.
Amid global disasters, how can emergency managers maintain their focus on more immediate or more likely threats?
Well, I think ultimately, that always comes back to our hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA), which provides the foundation for how EM programs are intended to be run.
So when you look at the industry, the framework of the work that we do really lies within our HIRA. And we do these analyses to identify the potential hazards to the work that we do to our industry, to our ministry, whatever the case might be.
And we utilize these resources to help set the program direction to make sure we’re addressing the most likely concerns that will impact our ability to deliver service. And so although there are always global threats happening, there’s always crises in action, not everything will impact on every industry.
So it’s really critical to know your industry and to know what it is that you’re providing from an EM lens. And also recognize that evolving threats could potentially have an impact to the work that you do. So in order to understand that aspect, you really need to know your business, you need to know your dependencies, whether that’s supply chain or critical infrastructure, you need to understand what it is that your service delivery mandate is focused on. And you need to recognize that there may be some dependencies through those particular supply chain or critical infrastructure focuses, that could be severely impacted by global or international affairs.
And that’s I think, where the HIRA really comes into play is helping you to understand your core business. And then understanding from there, how your business is impacted or not impacted based on the particular scenarios that you might be seeing.
Who benefits the most from effective emergency management and how do we reach the most vulnerable in our communities?
Well, I think from my perspective, working in government in EM, the major benefit is to the public. Emergency management ultimately is about public safety. And it’s ensuring that we have plans and procedures and resources in place, and ready to respond when emergencies occur so that we can effectively protect the public and support impacted people.
I think ultimately, if we’re achieving that as our main goal, then we have an effective EM program if that’s the focus of where we’re putting our efforts.
In terms of reaching the most vulnerable, I think where we need to focus there is understanding how and where those vulnerable groups get their information, and how we can then utilize those channels and networks to reach out to them for EM purposes.
As an example, I think about the homeless network. Homelessness is obviously a major issue across the country, there are lots of people who have experienced homelessness. But as EM professionals, we need to recognize that they are an extremely vulnerable group because, when disasters happen, they don’t have the same level of access to information or the same resources that others may have.
So, we need to recognize that number one, the vulnerability exists with the homeless people. But we also need to recognize that even though we don’t have the same communication channels to them, there are always mechanisms to get in touch.
So, we need to explore those a little more fully. That could include reaching out to shelters where they receive assistance, it could be local outreach programs that have been established to support them.
Those kinds of partnerships need to be built within the EM world so that we can connect more fully with the resources that are provided to those particular vulnerable groups and get our information out to those clientele in a format that they’re used to getting information from.
Ultimately, if we’re trying to get them to come to us that will never be an effective measure. We need to find ways to reach them and we have to do it through the channels that they’re used to getting information from.
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