One of the founding members of the SAFER Network here in British Columbia is Paul Edmonds of Red Dragon Consulting. He is expert in many things, not the least of which is his ability to put a strategic and visionary lens on all things emergency management. Paul just posted on his Red Dragon blog very recently some thoughts related to the September 11 announcement by Premier David Eby about the formation of an expert task force to review the current emergency response and management practices in BC.
In his blog post, Paul shares the content of a letter he sent to an Assistant Deputy Manager within the provincial government's Emergency Management BC (now the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness) in October 2019. In his letter, Paul offered some expert guidance around what he thought the future of emergency management in British Columbia would need to look like. The general content included a future where there was:
a unified and collaborative approach
inherent in all practices, the Sendai Framework principles of risk reduction and "build back better" fully supported in legislation
a cycle of emergency planning based on initial risk assessments, that focus on continuous improvement through learnings and innovative practices
more current, formalized and expert risk assessments and mitigation practices
community and organizational resilience as a foundational goal
a formalized risk management approach to decision making
regular and ongoing regional forums that maintained a conversation focused on continuous improvement of emergency management practices
Paul's comments were based in the need for collaboration across private sector, First Nations and local, regional, provincial and federal governments.
From the early information that is being released by the Province about its upcoming modernization of the Emergency Program Act, it seems that some of Paul's comments landed with some of the decision makers. We're seeing early indicators of many of the thoughts he shared. Paul's post comes on the heels of an announcement, also on September 11, 2023 by Premier David Eby about the formation of an "expert" task force to deal with climate emergencies.
Like many, we are initially wondering who will form up this expert task force. One observation many in the emergency management consulting world have made over the years is that our provincial government is more inclined to rely on internal "expert" resources and less on the pool of operationally experienced experts who are active here in BC.
Quite often, the experts chosen by the province have little or no operational experience in local government or First Nations emergency management. We're not slagging those folks because they are all intelligent, well intentioned people who generally care about helping others. They are contributing in their way to the overall resilience of British Columbia and that's a win for sure. But we are suggesting that in order for this "expert" task force to be truly effective it needs to comprise some good operationally experienced people. Boots on the ground, bums in the seats sort of experience.
We're suggesting there could be a role for some folks with these types of backgrounds:
traditional Indigenous knowledge and land management practices
senior level incident response & recovery management in all hazards including wildfire and flood
First Nations community and local authority emergency operations centres
senior level tactical and command operations in wildfire and flood, including aviation management and logistics
disaster supply chain management
emergency support services and volunteer management
disaster risk reduction
provincial and federal government operational support
emergency management technology and innovation
strategic foresight and thought leadership in emergency management
provincial government policy and program development, and financial management
These people are out there and they're not too hard to find. And they have to come from outside of the provincial government. We offer that these should be people who will ask the hard questions. It won't work if they are only critics. They have to be truly interested in finding a better way. If BC wants to truly improve on its practices to prepare for the evolving climate change threats, then it needs to dig deep. Clearly some of the emergency management practices that are currently in play are legacy from decades ago and need to evolve to meet tomorrow's challenges. We need to be willing to change some or all of our ways.
In an ideal world, an "expert" task force like this would be made up of operational experts. Real operational experts. And in an ideal world, their recommendations would be put into play.
Go have a read of Paul's post. It's called Toward a More Strategic Emergency Management Framework for BC.
In keeping with this theme, the SAFER Network team has been throwing around the idea of starting up a think tank. We think there's a need for a place for a bunch of experts to come together to apply some strategic thought to the future of emergency management operations here in BC and Canada.
If you think that an EM think tank is a good idea, please leave a thought or comment below. If you think you would be interested in participating, please send an email to the following address with the word "EM Think Tank" in the header.
Contributed by Steve Newton
Founding Member of the SAFER Network.