In the US, we are used to seeing FEMA taking a step with states, territories, and tribal governments following suit, at least in terms of emergency management policy. While states tend to handle a great deal of responsibility and authority in the US government structure, that largely pales to the structure of Canada, where the Canadian national government is generally more hands-off, in favor of provincial government autonomy. Just as in the rest of the world, however, Canada has seen an increase in frequency and severity of disasters, resulting in a need for further nation-wide coordination of efforts. This has led to the first ever Emergency Management Strategy for Canada.
The document, assembled and agreed upon by Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) emergency management partners, was guided by the Emergency Management Framework for Canada. Similar to a best practice here in the US and elsewhere, the Framework and the new Strategy, emphasize the importance of partnerships and a whole community approach to emergency management. Influenced by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and trends in emergency management, there is a lot of focus on the importance of resilience.
Priorities identified in the document include:
- Enhance whole-of-society collaboration and governance to strengthen resilience;
- Improve understanding of disaster risks in all sectors of society;
- Increase focus on whole-of-society disaster prevention and mitigation activities;
- Enhance disaster response capacity and coordination and foster the development of new capabilities; and
- Strengthen recovery efforts by building back better to minimize the impacts of future disasters.
As with most strategic documents, each priority identifies several enabling objectives to guide implementation. The document touches on every aspect of emergency management and identifies a lot of the connective tissue that exists between preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. On the down side, while I understand that implementation is left to each partner to execute as they see fit, the strategy lacks in identifying measures or benchmarks of success.
The Framework which this Strategy is based upon is even broader in scope and identifies a governance structure referred to as the Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM), with working groups for each phase of emergency management reporting to them. I’m hopeful that with this Strategy document as a solid first step, more detailed guidance, or even requirements, are released to provide a unified, doctrinal, and consistent approach.
Whatever gets implemented is still necessary and important forward progress. It chips away at problems we all commonly have and identifies a way forward for everyone. While government structures around the globe vary significantly, I’m positive that we can all eventually get to where we need to be.
As with all of my posts, I welcome comments, thoughts, and feedback, but I’m especially interested in feedback from those who work in emergency management in Canada for your thoughts on this Strategy and the way ahead.
© 2019 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP