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Monday, October 28, 2019
By Vanessa Howard


In Part 1 last month I introduced trauma-informed approach (TIA), a modality that recognizes how an individual’s past trauma affects their behaviour and our interactions with them.  

I referred to the significant prevalence of trauma among the population and the value of practicing TIA to foster a greater sense of safety, control and empowerment. I gave the real-life example of Charlie (not her real name) whose experience of past trauma came rushing to the surface when her BC community was ordered to evacuate because of a possible tsunami.

In Part II, I go into TIA in more depth, looking at what emergency management (EM) leaders should consider in adopting TIA in practice.

TIA is currently practiced in healthcare, the criminal justice system, child welfare and other fields but it has not been adopted widely in EM. I believe it should be fully integrated into EM policies, procedures, and delivery practices. All EM professionals should at least have a basic understanding of the modality and how it can be applied.

The power of trauma

Trauma is the response to, or experience of, a powerfully negative event or series of events. It can have a global effect on a person’s health and wellbeing and a direct physical impact on the body. The hippocampus -- which plays a central role in forming, organizing and storing memories, and connecting memories with emotions and sensations -- can change when exposed to trauma. Trauma can compromise the cardiovascular and endocrine systems, impact sleep, cause depression and anxiety, and even damage skin and hair. Untreated trauma can have long-term consequences for an individual’s self-esteem, ability to concentrate, resilience in stressful circumstances and their ability to work.

Moreover, mounting evidence suggests that trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Studies in epigenetics show that the DNA expression of children and grandchildren can be affected by the trauma of their predecessors. Following the U.S. Civil War, descendants of Union Army prisoners who stayed in Confederate prisoner of war camps were found to have shorter life expectancies than the average population.  

Emergency personnel can unintentionally re-traumatize individuals if they do not understand trauma’s lasting, complex effects. Staff, for example, may need an individual’s cooperation in filling in and following the forms and processes mandated by their institutions. Unless these requirements are handled with tact and sensitivity, the procedures can establish or accentuate distrust, suspicion or emotional disconnection for those with a history of trauma. As a result, they may be unable to cooperate or to provide information that would be valuable in serving them. 

A viable response

TIA demands “fundamental changes in how systems are designed, organizations function and practitioners engage with people,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The goal of TIA is to minimize the potential to retraumatize. Even those who have not experienced trauma benefit from this approach. 

Public Health Agency of Canada outlines four key principles for service providers:

1) Seek to Understand: Organizations should develop policies and processes that facilitate an understanding of the impact that trauma and violence can have on the lives and behaviours of individuals. Staff should be trained in TIA and be encouraged to understand the connection between current behaviours and past trauma/violence.

2) Create a Safe Space: Look for ways to help people feel understood and accepted. EM leaders should put themselves in the shoes of those being served. Consider doing a walk-through of procedures, processes, evacuations, announcements etc. With past trauma in mind, ask what it might feel like to experience these activities. Train staff in techniques to help individuals feel they are safe, secure and valued.

3) Facilitate Connection, Collaboration and Choice: Give staff opportunities to self-reflect and analyze the power differential between institutions and those bring served. Train and set expectations for the way staff communicate. Support staff in creating safe spaces, building trust, and offering choice where possible.

4) Support Resilience: Consider training staff in the techniques of “motivational interviewing,” which can help nurture empowerment in individuals. Foster a culture of emotional intelligence among staff. While it can be a challenge in EM, explore ways to offer services tailored to the needs or circumstances of individuals.

Conclusion

Trauma-informed approach can help EM leaders immensely in improving both the quality and effectiveness of their services. More research is needed on the specific benefits of applying TIA to EM programs. However, based on the experience in other sectors there are almost certainly benefits for EM.  When our interactions with people are carried out with greater sensitivity, empathy and understanding, when they feel empowered, disruptions are reduced, resilience is improved, and time itself – the most precious resource in any emergency – is saved.

Vanessa Howard is an Emergency Management Representative with Calian Group. She has 13 years of emergency response experience as a first responder, educator and facilitator. Her academic background includes exercise program development, the four pillars of emergency management, critical infrastructure protection, and risk management. She serves on the Professional Development Committee of the International Association of Emergency Managers. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2019
By Vanessa Howard

A trauma-informed approach (TIA) recognizes that past trauma, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, can play a key role in any individual’s behaviour in the present, and that recognition of this should be fully integrated into our policies, procedures, and delivery practices.

It is widely practiced in healthcare, the criminal justice system, child welfare, and elsewhere, but not in emergency management (EM). I believe it should be; and that all EM professionals should have at least a basic understanding of TIA and how it might be applied.

This is a two-part blog. In part one I provide an overview of TIA and why I believe it is so valuable as a modality. In part two I’ll go into TIA in more depth. But, first, I’d like you to meet Charlie.

Charlie

A recent experience has strengthened my conviction that TIA should be integral to EM work, in all situations. I met Charlie not too long ago, shortly after she’d called 911. I was working as a paramedic with BC Emergency Health Services. She had fallen and suffered a fracture.

On the way to the hospital, Charlie (not her real name) recalled events the night of January 23, 2018 in Port Alberni, BC where she lived. She awoke at about 3 a.m. The city’s tsunami warning system had been activated in response to an earthquake off the coast of Alaska. She’d been a victim in the past of serious domestic violence and was living in a safe location unknown to her abuser. 

This location also happened to be in the tsunami evacuation zone, which left Charlie facing a terrible dilemma. As a long-time resident of Port Alberni, she knew of the awesome destructive power of tsunamis, as the community had been heavily damaged by one in 1964. Fearing for her safety, she wanted to evacuate. But as the evacuation might inadvertently place her in contact with her abuser, she feared leaving.

Thankfully for Charlie, the order was lifted before she had to decide. But the impact of that night was apparent weeks later when I met her. She was still visibly upset about it.

The confluence of past and present

Hearing Charlie’s story was, for me, a lesson on the impact of past trauma in present emergency situations. Her story reminded me that, while we are answering a call for help in a present crisis, we are also often coming face-to-face with a person’s experience of trauma in the past.

When I met Charlie, in addition to working as a paramedic, I was also working on my bachelor’s degree in emergency and security management. As well, as a clinical educator, I was part of the team responsible for training paramedics across the province about TIA. Charlie’s story helped me recognize that the approach had significant implications across the EM field. It changed the way I look at everything I do when interacting with people. 

It is estimated that 76% of Canadians are exposed to a significant trauma in their lifetime (Ameringen, et al., 2008). It’s conceivable that a majority of people served by emergency managers could be victims of past trauma. This only underscores the importance and value of TIA. 
Untreated traumatic experiences can have long-lasting effects. They can influence people’s responses to current events or circumstances in many ways, either subtly, dramatically, or anywhere in between. An individual’s experience of past trauma can influence their feelings and perception of trust, safety, control and esteem. Their response in the present can be the result of real or perceived threats; a form of self-preservation, protection, and adaptation. Emergency managers or responders may know nothing about this – in fact, are quite likely to know nothing.

Making a difference

TIA assumes that the way we interact with people – including the subtleties of our body language and tone of our instructions – can either enhance or undermine their feelings of trust, safety, power and self-esteem. By applying TIA, we can challenge or re-evaluate assumptions we might otherwise make that could cause unintentional harm. We can build better relationships. Working for years as a paramedic, I have been privileged to listen to thousands of stories. Listening has given me an opportunity to help people feel heard, validated, empowered, and safe.

Some may argue there’s no time for TIA in many emergencies. Certainly, each situation comes with a unique set of challenges which must be prioritized. But in many situations there is room for a trauma-informed approach that allows EM professionals to tailor their approach to interaction to a person’s particular needs. This can minimize confusion and resistance, increase effectiveness, and actually reduce the time needed to respond.

TIA will not solve all of our problems. Building it into our everyday interactions, however, will make EM professionals both more effective and efficient in many situations.

 

Vanessa Howard is an Emergency Management Representative with Calian Group. She has 13 years of emergency response experience as a first responder, educator and facilitator. Her academic background includes exercise program development, the four pillars of emergency management, critical infrastructure protections, and risk management. She serves on the Professional Development Committee of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

 


Monday, September 9, 2019
By Adrienne Ethier

 

Small modular reactors (SMRs) hold tremendous potential promise as a source of nuclear energy power generation that is inexpensive, safe and readily deployed.

These small advanced nuclear reactors, which are scalable with application and generate power up to 300 MW per module, could:

  • be pre-fab manufactured and shipped for installation as opposed to custom-built on site, reducing costs; 
  • scale to match load requirements and deployed where needed, such as remote locations; 
  • be used in tandem with alternative energy sources to provide baseload power and replace diesel and other carbon-emitting energy sources to run electricity grids; 
  • cut emissions of greenhouse gases and mitigate the impacts of climate change by replacing traditional fossil-fuel usage. 

Currently there are a range of SMR designs and concepts in various stages of development around the world, with Argentina, China and Russia the only countries where SMRs are currently in the advanced stages of construction.  With so much potential, there remain challenges.  Here, I look at three ways we can address some of the potential major obstacles to commercialization. 

Challenge 1: Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power

While this may be the single greatest obstacle, there is good reason to think we can shift perceptions. 

In 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Association found in a national survey that 37% of respondents supported nuclear power and 53% opposed it.  Chief among the public’s concerns were safety, waste management and cost. Perception is important. Poor or misguided science can also falsely inform public opinion and, as a consequence, has the potential to adversely affect the future role of nuclear power and SMR success in the Canadian market. 

In addition to this, much of the challenge here is related to the distinction between community and individual welfare. People often cannot see how they personally benefit from nuclear energy – which hampers support for it. 

For instance, take the benefits of medical isotopes, which are produced in nuclear power reactors. Many of us have loved ones or friends whose life was saved because of the medical isotopes used to diagnose or treat their cancer. And yet, most of us completely take for granted the power stemming from a nuclear reactor when we switch the light on in our kitchen. If the public could better connect with and appreciate the various benefits of nuclear power they would be more likely to support it. 

One potential way to help people make this connection would be to consider having one or more SMRs designed to serve more than one of the potential applications for nuclear reactors:  carbon-free emission energy production, nuclear scientific research, and the production of medical isotopes. Those applications from SMRs with broader public acceptance (medical isotopes) could help mitigate concerns about issues that have lower public acceptance (nuclear energy), and as such, improve the overall likelihood that technology will be successful. 

Public consultation with First Nations and other stakeholders, including discussion and knowledge sharing, will be key to paving the way forward to greater public support for SMRs in Canada. It’s important to get the message out about the safety of SMR designs, owing to their smaller size and relative simplicity. 

Challenge 2 – Building the Business Case

Many questions remain before a sound business case can be made for deploying SMRs, including (but not limited to) continued construction and fabrication costs, and the cost of decommissioning versus the long-term value of the power produced. 

SMRs, because of their smaller size, have a greater overhead burden per MWe produced. This overhead burden can be substantial and is generally fixed, but the overall economics can be improved with a fleet approach to mitigate these costs (i.e., economies of scale). 

Manufacturing innovations, such as 3D printing, are also now being implemented to further reduce the costs associated with manufacturing. A third aspect to consider in building the business case are design simplifications and the ease of maintenance that must be built into the design to minimize ongoing operational costs.

Early focus on areas with the strongest business case (e.g. mining) would also help facilitate movement from individual units to an entire fleet. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and NRCan have both made great strides in facilitating the licensing process and mitigating potential setbacks through collaborative efforts (yet there is potential for increased timelines and uncertainty stemming from the introduction of Bill C-69). 

Challenge 3 – Development & Deployment

There remains some work to be done before we move into deployment. SMR designs need further testing and verification for security, safety, and assessment of potential environmental impact (i.e., where challenges will also arise due to data limitations). Engineers are looking for additional data sources to help parameterize predictive models and build safety cases, but there is minimal data for non-CANDU reactor technologies in Canada. That said, there are roughly 50 SMR designs in various stages of development worldwide, with exciting potential. 

In 2018, Natural Resources Canada convened the SMR Roadmap Project, a national consultation involving potential end-users such as northern and Indigenous communities, heavy industry, power utilities, and interested provinces and territories. One of the aims of the consultation was to gain feedback on some of the issues discussed here and identify solutions for the possible development and deployment of SMRs in Canada. It was the first of many promising discussions. 

I am encouraged by the extent of innovation, cooperation and support I’ve witnessed. That, combined with the exciting potential within SMR vendor engineering and design technologies, I believe we may just be on the cusp of a new era of nuclear power in Canada. 

 

Dr. Adrienne Ethier is Senior Nuclear Analyst for Calian Group in Ottawa. 


Wednesday, July 24, 2019
By Kevin de Snayer

 

Few organizations are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than our post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges face the seemingly impossible job of keeping their doors open and locked at the same time. 

To fulfill their mandate while ensuring that knowledge is freely available, institutions must give large populations of students unfettered access to systems, networks and the internet. But low barriers to entry can also put security at risk. 

While the security risks are real, most post-secondary institutions focus their resources on research and helping students with the skills and education they need to enter the job market after graduation. Indeed, almost all institutions of higher learning are using limited resources and budgets to maintain a sophisticated defence against hackers and cyber criminals. There are a few key things that institutions can do to protect themselves in these challenges. Here are my top three cyber risks for higher education, followed by suggestions to mitigate them.

1) The students 
We cyber security professionals often speak of the three pillars of security: people, process and technology. Each is only as strong as the weakest of the three. Most often, that’s people. 

Students cause a significant number, if not a majority, of breaches in school security. First, they can be problematic because they’re young and highly tech savvy. Their priority is access, and to that end they can be adept at circumventing security filters and protocols.

I recently made a presentation to a group of students. I was astonished at the level of sophistication in their questions. They asked me, for example, about Tor browser -- which powers the dark web and allows users to move through the internet anonymously.

Oh, did I not mention it? These students were in Grades 7 and 8. 

Second, a majority of students don’t care about data privacy. They often do not think about security. When access is the priority it can generally lead to a cavalier attitude toward sharing passwords, logging into the school system on public networks, and other unsafe activities. 

2) Value of student information
Universities and colleges must safeguard large quantities of personal data from students. They use it for a variety of reasons. Many schools analyze the data to learn how they can better attract and retain students.

Students are data-rich targets for cyber attackers: names, social insurance numbers, health records, email addresses, academic records, financial information, and other information can present a treasure trove to hackers. Their passwords are especially sought after, which can be used to gain access to the school’s network, systems and intellectual property.

3) The boundless perimeter
Educational institutions don’t have perimeters anymore. Data is their perimeter. Users log onto the school network from anywhere -- whether that’s from the campus library or a cabana in Mexico. 

With many students signing into the college or university system on a public network (e.g., at a café), there are real vulnerabilities. For example Pineapple routers can make it appear that the user is signing into the café’s wifi when they’re not. Then, as they log into their school network, their log-in credentials can be stolen. 

Reduce your vulnerability: People, processes and awareness
Faced with these challenges, what can schools do? A recent study by the Ponemon Institute measured the top 20 factors mitigating the cost of a data breach. Among the top five, only one related to technology (use of encryption). The other four concerned training, planning and policies. 

Student culture and behaviours, the value of information available, and the boundless perimeter indicate that schools have a very real need to focus on educating their users. A top priority should be investment in students, faculty and employee awareness. Security won’t stop users from emailing sensitive information, clicking on a bad link or transferring a payment to an apparent “vendor.” The school’s cyber resilience must involve training and education, planning and procedures, and a cybersecurity culture, backed by appropriate security and IT support.

Those outside of the IT department will be first to see or experience a security incident. That’s why many colleges and universities now run cyber awareness campaigns. These initiatives won’t change every user’s behaviour but they do help lessen your vulnerability. User reports of phishing emails, for example, are an excellent way to curb malicious messages.

Cyberattacks are successfully targeting end users with more sophisticated social engineering via mobile apps, online banking and social media platforms. Schools can give students, faculty and employees the skills and knowledge to better understand these vulnerabilities, recognize an incident and serve as first responders. 

No cyber-security program is complete without excellent technology. But by focusing on their people, educational institutions’ IT departments can go much further in fortifying their defences. 

Kevin de Snayer is Senior Cyber Solutions Advisor with Calian Group’s cyber security practice. Learn more and download our e-books and whitepapers here.

 


Friday, June 14, 2019
By Richard Moreau and Dr. Adrienne Ethier

We are not quite half-way through 2019 and yet Canada has already experienced multiple, simultaneous extreme weather emergencies, including the Ottawa River flooding and a tornado touching down East of the city. Wildfires are again burning in Alberta, a reminder of the 2016 wildfire that destroyed much of Fort McMurray. Northern Ontario communities are already facing evacuation due to the proximity of fires to their communities. Canadian communities are undoubtedly experiencing the global rise in frequency and severity of natural disasters. 

The obvious question is: How can we better prepare? Simply put, we need to proactively acknowledge the risk of natural disasters and invest in mitigation and preparedness. 

There are two vital elements to improving emergency management preparedness: 1) taking a systems-based approach, and; 2) using integrated science-based modelling to better understand risk. 

The Cost of Mitigation and Preparedness vs. Cost of Recovery
Experts tend to agree that for every dollar invested in mitigation, adaptation and preparedness, savings of up to $6 in the response and recovery can be achieved. In Canada we have seen even greater savings in projects like the Winnipeg Floodway. The Winnipeg floodway cost $63 million to build in 1963 and was modified for another $665 million in the 1990s. As of 2013 the floodway had saved an estimated $32 billion in flood damage costs over its lifetime. This means estimated savings of $44 for every dollar of floodway investment made.    

Investments in mitigation and preparedness can take many forms: re-building infrastructure stronger than the “100-year event” standard, pre-positioning physical measures in high-risk areas, and investing in diversionary measures in areas where risks are well-defined and understood. 

Systems-Based Approach
In addition to physical mitigation efforts there is also organizational preparedness – or preparing those who must respond. Depending on the scale of the disaster, a response may require resources from the province or even the federal government. For instance, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has been responding to an increasing number of disasters.  To improve preparedness, all stakeholders need to plan and train for regional risks. This includes local first responders, emergency managers, community-based volunteer groups, and anyone else willing to help with recovery. 

Preparedness means reducing the period of confusion when a disaster strikes to bring immediate focus where needed. This enables faster response, transition to recovery and resumption of normal life for the community. Integrating all response groups – including voluntary organizations – is essential to accelerating the pace and effectiveness of response.
Better preparing Canadian communities for disasters requires a shift in emphasis from response and recovery toward mitigation, preparedness and adaptation. 

Science-Based Risk Models
Understanding the risks of natural disasters in different regions is essential to taking appropriate mitigation measures. Risk modelling tools could include the integration of science-based predictive models with Geographic Information System (GIS)-based environmental and operational maps (e.g., water quality, land-use, financial liability or economic risk, watershed characteristics, dams, hydrometric data, snow survey sites, climate change) to forecast the risk of floods, fires and ice storms, and to complement or add to that knowledge with spatial analyses and/or data from past disasters. The result would be an integrated GIS-based predictive map that uses available data and knowledge on terrain and weather to simulate a range of possible outcomes based on a series of inputs.

For emergency managers and emergency planners, scenario-based experimentation is essential to planning for possible outcomes. By manipulating variables like expected rainfalls and warmer weather (and faster-melting snow), emergency planners can visualize a range of scenarios and optimize planning. This would allow for the pre-positioning of breakwaters and sandbags, execution of rehearsals and mobilization of volunteer networks. 

Communicating Risk
The outputs of an integrated science-based predictive map would provide the visualization needed to facilitate public comprehension and to better understand their own risk. Current risk assessments are generally well understood by emergency planners and environmental scientists, yet they may not be appreciated by home owners and the public. The public should have access to detailed information about the nature of the risk, its impacts, and what can be done to better prepare.  

Integrated predictive maps can also help the public clearly see high-risk areas and how the risk will manifest. Predictive maps can could show how high the water will rise in a flood; where the fire could burn; or for how long the power could be knocked out. The outcome of a natural disaster should be clear to the public to emphasize how people and communities would be affected. 

Modelling Costs
There is a cost to developing and working with models. Data models need to be built and constantly revalidated, data from multiple sources collected, visual analytics products developed for the public, and decision-makers and planners briefed on possible outcomes. Much of the data for these models is available and collected by federal, provincial or municipal agencies. 

The cost of integrating these risk models and maps will inevitably be lower than the cost of response and recovery.  In Dunrobin, west of Ottawa, the clean up for the flood of 2019 will include cleaning up the last of the 2018 tornado debris. Fort McMurray is forever changed from the wildfire of 2016.  Homes destroyed by fire and floods have displaced entire communities and forever changed their attitudes and fabric.  The question surrounding these social costs cannot be ignored or measured in the same way as financial costs.   

Houses can be rebuilt. However communities cannot fully return to their previous state.  

Conclusion
Emergency response truly requires a “whole of society”’ and system-wide approach, meaning all levels of government, with of the involvement of industry, academia, local volunteer organizations and affected residents in disaster planning and preparedness. Deliberate investment in mitigation and preparedness measures and more informed planning through the use  of risk modelling tools will help communities  better understand and prepare for the inherent risks resulting from the ever increasing natural disasters. 

Richard Moreau is Director of Emergency Management Solutions and Dr. Adrienne Ethier is Senior Scientist, Emergency Preparedness at Calian Group. 

 


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