EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES
The accepted responsibility for emergency management in Canada first lies with the individual(s)/communities directly affected by the event. It is recognized and accepted that individuals and communities need to be responsible for themselves and those under their care. Being responsible simple means that appropriate preparedness and planning, logical response capability and capacity and common sense measures are to be taken prior to seeking or requesting help from various levels of society or government. When an event overwhelms the capability and or capacities of an individual/community or when an event is highly devastating or wide spread affecting large populations or geographical area, assistance and leadership is available from Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments.
Because of the diverse events that could affect communities, it is not practical to prevent or plan for every event individually. In Canada, Emergency Management follows an All Hazards approach.
The ALL HAZARDS PLANNING APPROACH
“A process that ensures that disaster planning achieves its aims by collecting information on the full range of threats opposed to a single threat so subsequent risk management decisions can be made efficiently and appropriately”
“ALL HAZARDS Emergency Planning” provides a vehicle for a community’s emergency management style to be consistent regardless of the event. A community should not respond differently to every different impact that presents itself. The fundamental response should be the same, the authorities should be the same, the triggers should be the same, and the responding agencies and responders should be the same. By utilizing the same infrastructures, the same authorities and the same processes, resourcing, training, supplying and managing the response, the process and the plan become an easier task instead of a different management style for each impact.
Developing plans based on each impact become repetitive and cumbersome. They present a challenge to teach, train and exercise. They become confusing when a complex impact, encompassing combinations of different impacts presents, which plan do you follow? How does each of the plans “talk” to each other? What are the common connections and how do they work with each other?
Generally, a community has a finite availability of resources that must be available for any and all impacts. All hazards planning resolves the question of what plan gets what resources when they need them. Resources are deployed as required not by the cause of the impact but rather the timely requirement of the appropriate resources. The resulting impact from different hazards may be the same, meaning that instead of focusing on planning for the hazard, communities should be planning for the impacts regardless of the cause. All Hazards planning addresses the common consequences of hazards and not the specific hazard. Many different hazards can produce the same impact effect; the impact is easier to manage allowing one solution to be used rather than different approaches or solutions for each hazard. Simply put “All Hazards Approach – identify the common elements of potential disaster situations and develop generic responses.” (E.L. Darby 2004)
The All Hazard approach ensures that the planning process: achieves it’s aims efficiently; removes the focus off of single threats; considers a full range of threats (primary, secondary & tertiary); allows for appropriate Risk Management decisions; and provides response solutions that can be applied to a range of hazards.
All Hazard planning allows for clearer thinking towards appropriate mitigation strategies by focusing on the elimination or reduction of the impact not the hazard. A community has very little control over most of the hazards they experiences but they can control to some degree the impact on their community, they can understand the impacts, they can mitigate the impact and they be prepared for the impact and be ready to recover from the impact.
An example would be power interruptions; the impact is the loss of power to essential community services and resources. Does the cause of the power interruption have a lot of importance in resolving or managing the loss of power? Not always, sometimes the cause can contribute to complicating the response to the management of power interruptions but essentially when the power is out, the power is out and essential services and resources require attention. A common example would be a power outage due to a lightening strike at the electric company’s primary generation station or sub-stations. Power will be out until the electric company repairs the damage and restores power. Chances are that your community has little to no ability to affect the repairs and must wait until the power is restored by the electric company. However; appropriate All Hazard planning should have identified power outages as a potential hazard with associated impacts to the community’s essential services and through risk management principles ranked accordingly. Mitigation strategies should have put in place, such as appropriate emergency generators at all of the essential services to accommodate emergency power should a power outage occur. If the power outage occurred due to a hurricane destroying the power distribution grid then the impact result is the same; no power, however; the effects of a hurricane can complicate the response to the impact by means of transportation difficulties, safety of personnel, and the length of time to repair due to the magnitude of the impact. Regardless, the power is out until restored, the community still must manage the essential services and resources by their All Hazard plan and their installed mitigation strategies.
An all hazard plan is a community’s emergency response plan and varies little from incident to incident. Unique and specialized response requirements are covered off in appendices. Any or all of the emergency organization can be activated at any time. Some of the common hazards impacting communities’ include: severe weather; earthquakes; fires; critical infrastructure failures (electricity, water, gas, transportation crashes, communications etc); flooding; epidemics/pandemics; hazmat incidents. All of these have common consequences and require a consistent response from a community’s plan.
4 PILLARS OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Emergency Management’s foundation rests with the 4 Pillars of Emergency Management: Prevention or Mitigation; Preparedness; Response and Recovery. These are the 4 main responsibilities of an Emergency Preparedness Program. Recognizing the hazards that can affect your community, understanding your community’s vulnerabilities and doing everything within the community’s power to prevent the effects of the hazards are the beginning steps. Once a hazard has been identified and understood strategies to either eliminate or reduce the effects are obligatory. If the threat cannot be eliminated, then the effects must be reduced as much as possible. Response plans must be crafted to manage the remaining impact to the community and once the impact has passed recovery plans return the community to as near the pre-impact status as possible in the quickest possible time.
“Comprehensive Emergency Management involves addressing hazards and disasters through a constant balancing of the mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery components.” (J. Lindsay 2004)