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How Calian Helps Communities, Governments and Organizations Prepare for Emergencies and Mitigate the Effects

When an emergency occurs, it’s too late to plan or rehearse the response. Fires, floods and other disasters don’t pause while you get ready to address them. Policies, plans and procedures for response must be in place long before they are needed.

The village of Telkwa, British Columbia, understood the importance of emergency management planning. This small community is located at the intersection of the Bulkley and Telkwa Rivers and has access to both a rail line and a major highway. This presents opportunities, but also hazards that could require a large evacuation response. That’s why Telkwa engaged Calian pre-emptively to develop an emergency management solution that was customized to fit their needs.

Calian worked with Telkwa to develop a guiding document to support decision-making in the village’s emergency operations centre (EOC) and to facilitate evacuation-related decisions. Today, Telkwa’s EOC is ready for whatever evacuation emergency arises.

Organizations and governments typically have a core of EOC staff and augment the EOC with additional staff from other departments in an emergency. The growing number of longer-duration emergencies requires a greater surge of EOC staff than ever before. These additions to the EOC need to be trained for the roles they will take on in an emergency.

Online Emergency Operations Centre Training

When it comes to delivering efficient, cost-effective training in a way that is flexible and convenient, online training is a great option. Calian offers online EOC training for organizational staff that could be seconded in an EOC during an emergency. Many of these staff members are not involved in emergency preparedness as part of their day-to-day roles in the organization, so they require periodic training to ensure they know what to do when they are called upon to staff an EOC.

Calian EOC training is practical and targeted, providing much-needed instruction as introductory training for those who have not received training before and refresher training for employees who have received training but may not have put their training into practice recently. Both are valuable and necessary elements of a comprehensive emergency management plan.

Introductory training is usually provided for new employees or those who have not received training in the past. These employees have full-time jobs and don’t have time to dedicate a full day or a weekend to incident management and response training. Online introductory training provides a targeted, practical course that prepares staff to move easily into their role in the EOC and be successful in it during an emergency.

Refresher training fulfills an immediate need for EOC staff for an imminent emergency. It is provided when an employee has received the introductory training but has either not put the training to use recently or has never had to respond to an emergency. The refresher training is provided on a “just-in-time” basis. For example, when there is an alert that a weather emergency is anticipated, they may have an immediate need for refresher training for EOC staff. This kind of training is brief and targeted, providing staff with the knowledge and decision-making skills to perform the tasks and functions necessary for the role.

The introductory and refresher EOC training programs that Calian has developed are effective because they are based on the experience of listening to and working with communities of all sizes across Canada. They have been designed to maximize the value to communities while also leveraging best practices, which are defined by the growing body of academic knowledge related to emergency management and lessons observed from disasters.

Table-Top Exercises (TTX)

Calian delivers tabletop exercises that simulate the experience from the emergency alert to activation of the EOC. These exercises are designed to help your organization understand roles and responsibilities, information management and decision processes—in preparation for an emergency, during an emergency and for recovery after an emergency.

The tabletop exercise provides the venue to talk through and think through how emergency managers will respond to a crisis—in very practical terms—and transition back to normal. It serves as a venue to unpack assumptions, identify risk areas and identify how to improve response.

Clients have asked us to develop tabletop exercises specifically for wildfires. Wildfires have become a growing concern across Canada, with the potential to trigger community-level evacuations and threaten lives.

The wildfire tabletop exercise brings together all agencies participating in a wildfire response across a regional jurisdiction. This can include provincial fire services, municipal fire services, local authorities and other supporting aid agencies responsible for evacuations. Bringing all these participants together in a wildfire scenario helps to uncover the strengths and capabilities that each organization brings to a wildfire response, as well as any constraints they might be under.

At the end of the exercise, Calian delivers a report that shows the capabilities of the response team and areas for improvement. The final report gives communities an evidence-driven assessment of the community’s level of preparedness for an emergency. It also gives the community the information they need before an emergency to strengthen the areas where they show weakness.

Public Notification Rehearsals

Public information is critical during an emergency.

Calian trains emergency management teams on the effective use of the mass notification system they use. This is done through discussion-based exercises that explore levels of authorization for public alerts and how to effectively implement software solutions alongside existing systems.

Calian also builds and writes policies and procedures to support the onboarding of the mass notification software program to ensure it is used effectively when needed. When necessary, Calian also trains staff on the use of the software.

Time is critical during an emergency, and writing public notifications can be arduous and time-consuming, especially in places where processes are not regularly revisited. Calian is often called upon to create templated tools to guide emergency managers through the notification process. These templates reduce the amount of work required to write notifications during an actual emergency.

Emergency preparedness should be an ongoing activity for all organizations and governments. Time and effort invested in emergency preparedness today improve the speed and quality of the response tomorrow.