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United front needed for emergency preparedness

When a crisis can happen at any time, having a united front between federal and provincial governments, the private sector and non-government organizations and the public for dealing with disaster is key to making sure a return to normalcy happens quickly.



May 17, 2006
By Andrew Wareing

Topics

That was the message at one of the sessions of the Conference Board of
Canada’s recent Second Public-Private Sector Summit on National
Security.

Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Commissioner of Emergency Management Julian Fantino said recent events
have shown that no one agency is able to deal with a crises on its own
and that failure to work together can mean, in addition to the
destruction of careers, the loss of lives and property.

“With every emergency, one realizes a crises can begin as a local event
and escalate into a major national crises so how we handle these are a
critical item for us,” he said.

“We have to have overarching strategies; we can’t just operate in
isolation,” said Fantino. “There is a great need to develop linkages
and build those relationships ahead of an incident. Those plans have to
be in place, gaps identified and filled. We need to create a united
front as we go forward.”

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Bill C-12 is the federal government’s response to meeting those
concerns, says Patricia Hassard, the senior assistant deputy minister
of Public Safety Canada. Tabled by Public Safety Minister at the
beginning of Emergency Preparedness Week from May 7 to 13, the new
legislation outlines the implementation of a modern emergency
management system including the four pillars of prevention, mitigation,
preparedness and recovery as well as critical infrastructure
protection.

It also outlines methods of cooperation with other jurisdictions
including the provincial governments, non-government organizations like
the Red Cross and the private sector, promoting constant communication
and information sharing as well as provisions to protect sensitive
information provided by the private sector regarding critical
infrastructure vulnerabilities.

Hassard said the federal government has frequently been criticized for
not showing leadership in times of disaster. “People ask, ”˜are we
prepared?’ To borrow from the minister when he introduced the
legislation, we are prepared but we can always be better and that is
what we try to do at the federal level. The question is often asked
whether something can actually be prevented. If not, we can certainly
take actions to mitigate the extent of a disaster and the damage it
causes.”

Michel Doré, Associate Deputy Mininster for the Ministère de la
Sécurité publique with the province of Quebec said, for the sake of
those who are finding themselves given new roles in crises management, 
there is a need for more contingency planning before there is a loss of
more experienced people.

“With the challenges we all have, considering the labour force we
have,” he says. “There are a lot of retirements happening in the coming
years and there is a significant challenge on transferring this
know-how before people go away with it in order to reinject that
experience and expertise to those managers who will take on the
challenge of building up our resilience.”


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