1.800.718.3762

News Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Disaster Forum 2013 was a great success!

ERMC was proud to be a sponsor at the 2013 edition of Disaster Forum held in Banff, Alberta. This year’s conference theme was “Plan to Communicate” and was a resounding success. ERMC’s presence at Disaster Forum 2013 was as follows:

  • A pre-conference workshop on Advanced Exercise Design by ERMC Senior Consultant Bruno Cornejo
  • “Getting your Executives to Lead the Parade” – a one hour session delivered by ERMC President Ed Wendlandt
  • “Workplace Sheltering-in-Place” – a one hour session delivered by Bruno Cornejo
  • On the afternoon of May 15th a staged EOC Exercise, developed by ERMC Consultant Shawn Grono and moderated by President Ed Wendlandt. The Exercise had volunteer conference delegates playing Emergency Operations Centre staff of a fictional Alberta municipality responding to a scripted emergency scenario, with the rest of the delegates observing their actions.

All of the speaker’s material and video footage of the demonstration exercise will be posted at www.disasterforum.ca. ERMC looks forward to sponsoring and attending the 2014 edition of Disaster Forum, see you there!

Canadian Business Journal: “Few companies prepared for crisis management”

Great article published by The Canadian Business Journal on the importance of planning and preparing for dealing with a crisis.

“The survey reveals that a poorly managed crisis clearly has a negative impact on a company’s share valuation, so it is imperative for investor relations officers to be prepared. A crisis communications plan is one of the most important tools a company can have in its arsenal.”

Full article: http://www.cbj.ca/business_news/canadian_business_news/041311_few_companies_prepared_for_crisis_management_survey.html

West, Texas – A Terrible Tragedy – and some lessons for us all

Let’s be clear, the disaster that occurred this week at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas is a terrible tragedy.  As this is being written there are now 12 fatalities and they are closing in on 200 injured – some critically with the search and recovery still ongoing.

There are some facts we know that now we think we need to emphasize:

 

  1. 1.     Some of the fatalities are fire and EMS/first responders.  These individuals – many of them volunteers – gave their lives protecting their families and their communities and they deserve our honour and our respect – forever.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

 

  1. 2.     The explosion from the plant was severe and extreme.  It caused injury to many – and massive structural damage to neighboring facilities/buildings. Regardless of cause, this event reinforces for all of us the critical elements of municipal planning, development restrictions and buffer zones. 

 

We see the rural/urban and industrial/residential development trade off getting more and more complex – as our population increases.  The setbacks allowed at West will be looked at going forward no doubt.  This event serves as a crucial reminder for us all to be aware of these issues as our communities grow and as our industrial facilities and transportation corridors expand as well.The need for critical risk assessment and mitigation has not gone away.  Our skills in facility engineering and materials testing and design have gotten better and better but we cannot ignore the risk management aspect of our businesses.  The first responders in WEST, Texas and elsewhere are owed that consideration – always.

ERMC Sr. Vice President Ed Wendlandt Featured on CBC News

After the tragic events in Boston last week, emergency preparedness is on the minds of many people. CBC News spoke to ERMC Sr. Vice President Ed Wendlandt about some of the challenges of preparing for large scale events such as the Boston Marathon.

Part 1 of Ed’s Interview:

Part 2 of Ed’s Interview:

Winter Driving Tips

As we know in Canada, winter can be one of the most difficult and unpredictable driving seasons. However if one stays alert,
slows down and remains in control– you’ll be sure to get where you need to go, safely.

Before Hitting the Road

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready. Take it in for a tune-up before the snow is here to stay.
  • Install four winter tires; do not mix-and-match with your summer or all-seasons. A good rule of thumb is to put your snow tires on when the temperature drops to 7° C.
  • Be prepared for an emergency.
  • Wear clothing, or have clothing in the car available, that is appropriate for the weather outside the car not inside the car (including foot and headwear.) While driving, your clothing should not hinder your movement and should be comfortable.
  • Plan your route. Be familiar with the maps/directions to avoid confusion and check the weather reports before you leave. Let others know you’re travelling plans including when you’re leaving and when you’ll arrive.
  • Always clear the ice and snow from your vehicle. Pay special attention to your windows, lights, mirrors, hood and the roof.
  • Be sure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid. It’s also a good idea to keep some extra fluid in the car in case you run out.

On the Road

  • Buckle up, remember it’s the law.
  • Check the weather and travel conditions before heading out, and drive according to those conditions. In the winter, allow yourself extra time for travel so you get to where you want to be in time.
  • Bring your cell phone with you as it can be very useful in case of an emergency, but remember to pull over to the side of the road first. Winter driving demands your full attention.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full. Keeping the gas tank full will prevent your gas line freezing, not to mention making sure you’ve got the fuel to get where you need to go.
  • Reduce your speed and do everything gently, especially when turning, accelerating or stopping.
  • Keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you because it takes longer to stop in the winter. What makes a safe distance? Under normal driving conditions, safe spacing can be determined with the two-second rule. In winter, and especially in bad weather, double the two-second rule. This means, a 4-second interval from the time the car in front of you passes a fixed object until you reach the same object.
  • When conditions are wintery, don’t use cruise control. Winter conditions require you to be in full control of the vehicle at all times.
  • Shaded areas, like bridges and overpasses, have a tendency to freeze sooner and stay frozen longer. Keep this in mind when approaching. Also, watch out for black ice as it can cause your vehicle to suddenly lose traction.
  • Losing traction can result in skidding off the road. To avoid losing traction, do everything slowly. Always try to gently turn, gently accelerate and gently brake.
  • If you start to skid, look where you want the vehicle to go and steer in that direction but be careful not to oversteer.

ERMC Includes Update on FUKUSHIMA Reactor/Earthquake & Tsunami

The emergency management community and the world at large were held spell bound on March 11th, 2011 when north eastern Japan was struck by a massive 9.0 Richter scale earthquake along with a trailing tsunami.  The scale of the earthquake and the size of the tsunami waves – estimated at over 38 meters high in some spots, resulted in catastrophic impacts.

While the civilian, property and environmental costs have been tremendous, the ongoing issues with the Fukushima Nuclear Power Generating facility have remained in the forefront of the news.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently released a short preliminary report on the Fukushima facility.  While the entire report bears reading, some key findings that we feel are critical to highlight are outlined below.  Note: that this by no means a complete summary of the recommendations nor the report.

ERMC has included our own comments in brackets { } for consideration from the reader.  When you review the points made, ask yourself, “How your own organization would rate when evaluated against these points?”

  • The Japanese Government’s {My organization’s} longer term response to protect the public, including evacuation, has been impressive and extremely well organized. A suitable and timely follow-up programme on public and worker exposures and health monitoring would be beneficial.

  • The tsunami {Extreme Weather} hazard for several sites was underestimated. Nuclear {Facility} designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and provide protection against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update these assessments and assessment methodologies in light of new information, experience and understanding.

  • Defence in depth, physical separation, diversity and redundancy requirements should be applied for extreme external events, particularly those with common mode implications such as extreme floods.

  • Nuclear {Process} regulatory systems should address extreme external events adequately, including their periodic review, and should ensure that regulatoryindependence and clarity of roles are preserved in all circumstances in line with IAEA {Industry Best Practices and} Safety Standards.

  • Severe long term combinations of external events should be adequately covered in design, operations, resourcing and emergency arrangements.

  • The Japanese accident demonstrates the value of hardened on-site EmergencyResponse Centres with adequate provisions for communications, essential plant parameters, control and resources. They should be provided for all major nuclear {process} facilities with severe accident potential. Additionally, simple effective robust equipment should be available to restore essential safety functions in a timely way for severe accident conditions.

  • Hydrogen risks {Specific hazards for specific sites} should be subject to detailed evaluation and necessary mitigation systems provided.

  • Emergency arrangements, especially for the early phases, should be designed to be robust in responding to severe accidents.

ERMC suggests that the majority of these recommendations could apply to your own organization. Don’t hesitate to contact us directly if we can be of any assistance.

ERMC Facilitates Functional De-Brief– Post Wild Fire Event for Athabasca

In August, 2011, ERMC facilitated a formal debrief of Athabasca participants in the social services and evacuation centre during the Slave Lake Fire. These people were a combination of employees from both Athabasca County and the Town of Athabasca. In addition, the de-brief included numerous supporting volunteers.

Debriefs are not meant to be judgmental, they are however critical in capturing “lessons learned,” and hopefully result in improving response efforts during future emergencies.  Whether the result of “real life” events or simulation exercises, as standard practice–ERMC consultants integrate immediate “hot wash” debriefs and/or organized debriefs as a regular course of business in our daily work.

The onsite debrief, in The Town of Athabasca, allowed for participants from different areas of the emergency response to meet in a controlled and professionally facilitated environment. They were able to identify and review what went well and, where changes could possible by made to improve response and functioning of the evacuation centre.  ERMC was able to provide independence and objectivity to the process, and ensure that all perspectives were addressed.

In total, the formal debrief included approximately 20 individuals who were active in delivering services during the evacuation. As part of the debrief process, ERMC was able to develop and administer an electronic (web-based) survey to all participants.  This confidential survey provided ERMC with key feedback – which then allowed us to structure our agenda and questions for the de-brief in advance. The result, Athabasca was thus assured that core issues of concern to all were in fact addressed during the debrief session.  In addition, this also improved upon the credibility of the debrief process with participants.

Going forward, Athabasca County now has key feedback – both from the electronic survey and formal debrief to action to further improve their ability to manage future events.

Emergency Planning & Preparedness: Top-of-Mind and Alive in the Municipal Setting

 

Municipalities are tasked with ensuring that disasters are managed in an effective and coordinated manner and that in the event of an incident, impacts to a community are minimized through a coordinated approach to emergency planning and by ensuring resources and supports are in place to mitigate the effects.

This sometimes becomes easier said than done due to ever increasing workloads and staff managing a myriad of accountabilities.  Priority is often given to tasks at hand, resulting in emergency management programs being shuffled to the bottom of the list, or pile on an overpopulated desk.

Although motivated by an incident in August of 2010, Airdrie has managed to keep its emergency management program alive and thriving.  Part of this momentum began with a thorough post event debrief which was attended by all Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) staff as well as external agencies supporting the EOC.  It was a great exercise to really evaluate our strengths, celebrate successes, but also take a closer look at areas requiring improvement or development.  Following the debrief, and to generate flywheel momentum, a comprehensive work plan was created to capture learning’s, assign priority as well create a task list to ensure completion.  The City’s Emergency Management Agency endorsed the work plan and staff committed to quarterly review until its completion.  Taking just over a year to complete the work plan, the City has now shifted its focus on further review of its Municipal Emergency Plan, supporting policies, and jurisdictional plans.  This process has included training and exercising new policies and procedures and building relationships within the team and with our external partners. Several jurisdictional areas have taken this opportunity to review and enhance their supporting plans, bringing these forward to the larger team to educate and initiate further conversation, ultimately building capacity within the group.

Although challenges will always remain in keeping Emergency Management Planning and Preparedness top of mind, Airdrie is hopeful that our program will continue to grow by ensuring staff are engaged and valued for their contributions to the whole.

Ms. Lorri Laface
Emergency Management Coordinator & Deputy Director of Emergency Management
City of Airdrie, Alberta

ERMC Provides Services in Bogota, Columbia

ERMC recently was able to provide consulting expertise in Bogota, Columbia. The work included:

  • Review drilling Emergency Response Plans (ERPs)
  • A corporate ERP review
  • Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) consulting
  • The delivery of two EOC exercises

Our North American based client with operations in South America, was looking for assistance to ensure continuity and consistency in their emergency management systems and response structures across both continents.

Central to the project’s success was the ability of ERMC to deliver all services in Spanish.  On staff, ERMC has a consultant who is fluent in Spanish – and was also able to recruit simulators for the SIM centre, based in Edmonton for the exercises.  They were equally fluent in Spanish.  As a result, the exercise instructions and scripting were translated into Spanish and English – ensuring a “true” evaluation of the client’s own internal capabilities – in both languages.

The preparation and material development work was all done at the ERMC Canadian head office.  The work in Columbia was done at the client offices, and was all accomplished in a one week time frame.  This allowed the client a “quick” turnaround and also helped minimize cost.

The result is encapsulated in the client’s direct quote, “Just a quick note to say how pleased I was with the ERMC consultant’s performance here during the last week’s training and exercise, we could not have accomplished the positive outcomes without his involvement. Thank you ERMC for being so accommodating and professional.”

The Exceptional Work of the Athabasca County FCSS Team during the Slave Lake Crisis

The Athabasca County Family and Community Social Services (FCSS) team is responsible for an area which extends over a significant amount of north-eastern Alberta. While there is a primary Reception Centre identified as the Regional Athabasca Multiplex and alternate county locations, the FCSS team can respond as a fully functional mobile Reception Centre team able to meet  the needs of displaced citizens throughout the county.

The recent Slave Lake fire and town evacuation was a devastating incident that necessitated a large scale reception centre to be set up at the Regional Multiplex. This involved the full activation of the FCSS Reception Centre Team and multitudes of volunteers. The Slave Lake emergency was the first “real opportunity” for the FCSS team to activate, set-up and conduct a reception centre. Given the inclusion of more than 1000 displaced residents and their pets, the FCSS Reception Centre Team rose to an unprecedented level. The FCSS team created a caring and positive/supportive atmosphere as they set up the Reception Centre and throughout the processing of the displaced casualties.

The FCSS team demonstrated that they are well aware of their respective roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency and were very supportive of other functions throughout the processing of evacuees.

ERMC is proud to have been a part of the development process of the Athabasca FCSS team. Having recently worked with the team on a similar but small scale evacuation exercise in 2010, it was felt that this team was capable and willing to selflessly give of their time to establish and conduct a fully functional reception centre.

Marcellus F Adamkewicz, Consultant
ERMC