News Archive for October, 2011

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.”