Battling Wild Fires and Perspectives

Hello readers!  Apologies for my absence over the past couple of weeks.  I’m grateful, especially as a founder and company partner, that we’ve been so busy as of late.  The design, conduct, and evaluation of a couple of great exercises for one client; the design of several impactful training courses for another; along with preparations for two new contracts have had our small business buzzing with activity.  We will be recruiting a lot of people for one of those contracts, so stay posted on the blog (, my LinkedIn profile, and both my personal (@triecker) and our company (@epsllc) Twitter accounts, as well as the company website ( for more info.

Although I’ve not been blogging for the last couple of weeks, I’ve still been keeping up on current events.  The wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada has been consistently one of the biggest stories as the fires still continue to spread, having caused massive devastation to property and the environment, and having displaced around 100,000 people.  Hundreds of vehicles were abandoned during evacuations, either due to mechanical trouble or lack of fuel.  The Canadian Red Cross, partnering with federal and provincial governments, is providing tens of millions of dollars in direct aid to impacted individuals and families.  Thousands of workers are being evacuated from the oil sands area north of the Fort McMurray, stalling more than a million barrels of production each day.  Firefighters, law enforcement, military personnel, and other resources are battling dry conditions, high temperatures, and winds in this massive and constantly shifting fire.  Other provincial and local governments and even citizens are helping to shelter and care for evacuees, many of which have lost much of their property.

One thing I often find interesting is the difference between perspectives, especially between public safety and citizens.  While our focus in public safety is… well… to make sure the public is safe, we always have to keep tabs on perception.  Take the seemingly conflicting reports of these two articles, for example.  The first article, published Thursday May 5, tells the story of residents evacuated from an area who are questioning the organization of response efforts and general preparedness of officials.  One individual tells of no police officers to guide evacuees out of town.  The second article, published on Saturday May 7 tells of military and police overseeing evacuations across the incident.  I believe I read these two articles back to back, causing the dichotomy of the two to really jump out at me.

Truth, of course, likely lies in both articles.  Yes, thousands of public safety and military personnel are involved and doing what they can.  Some evacuation orders, as indicated in the first article, are sudden, based upon rapidly changing factors, giving public safety little time to mobilize to the new area.  There must also be a consideration that evacuation orders may have been issued without proper coordination of resources.  Any of these things are possibilities, especially in the fast moving environment of wild fires.  Still, they provide opportunities for us to learn and improve.  Not knowing the details of what may or may not have transpired, I am always reluctant to speculate.  As with all incidents, events, and exercises, however, once the work is done, we have an excellent opportunity to review and evaluate information in a collaborative manner to identify strengths and areas for improvement.  Organizing these notes creates a corrective action plan, the implementation of which will, over time, make us better at what we do.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker

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