Government leaders meet to discuss emergency management priorities

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers met recently in Toronto to discuss and jumpstart emergency management priorities, urging stronger collaboration among goverment bodies to enhance safety and security in the country.

The federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for emergency management met recenty in Toronto to discuss emergency management priorities, according to a press release by Public Works Canada.

The meeting, held on January 26, was co-chaired by the Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety Canada, and Jim Bradley, Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

“I am pleased to announce we have made significant progress today by putting in place many of the tools we need to strengthen emergency management in Canada,” said Toews. “Our respective responsibilities for emergency management ensure the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories work closely to protect the safety and security of all Canadians.”

During the meeting, the ministers approved the 2011 revised edition of An Emergency Management Framework for Canada, which reflects recent developments in the emergency management field to strengthen its relevance to governments. The framework describes the fundamentals of emergency management, reinforces the commitment of complementary responsibilities among governments, and supports improvements to emergency management in Canada.

Bradley stressed that emergency management is a collaborative effort. "It is an effort that builds on relationships that are essential to effective prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts. With the help of my colleagues, we have been able to use our relationships to put into place strategies and action plans that will result in safer and more resilient communities.”

The ministers approved the National Emergency Response System (NERS), which identifies federal, provincial and territorial interactions within the common areas of response activities, and facilitates cross-jurisdictional coordination and decision-making to ensure an efficient response to domestic emergencies.

The ministers also introduced a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Resilience Strategy and Action Plan for Canada, which will guide governments to better prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from any CBRNE event. This strategy and action plan will coordinate CBRNE activities, and is a result of extensive national consultations with emergency responders, municipalities, provinces, territories and within the federal government.

The ministers discussed and approved the Strategy for Communications Interoperability and Action Plan for Canada. This strategy identifies key priorities to enhance governance, standard operating procedures, planning, technology, training, exercises, and is aimed at improving the voice and data communications for emergency responders - both in day-to-day activity and during times of emergencies that affect more than one jurisdiction.

In addition, government leaders discussed the current consultation related to the 700 MHz broadband spectrum, and the possibility of securing a portion of the spectrum for emergency responders to use for public safety and security purposes. Provincial and territorial ministers expressed support for this approach, as they felt it offers significant interoperability enhancement potential. The use of the 700 MHz spectrum would link public safety and security stakeholder communities across Canada and along the Canada-U.S. border, while promoting innovation to Canada’s digital economy.

The ministers expressed appreciation to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs and the Emergency Medical Service Chiefs of Canada for their valuable contribution to the development of the strategies and action plans on CBRNE resilience and communications interoperability.

Provincial and territorial ministers have also adopted the Provincial/Territorial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Emergency Management Assistance. The MOU will enhance emergency management relationships among the provinces and territories by providing a framework for inter-jurisdictional cooperation and access to required resources before, during and after emergency events.

The ministers reviewed the progress toward the development of an emergency management strategy in support of Aboriginal communities in Canada. Indian & Northern Affairs Canada and the provinces and territories will continue to work together  to develop guidelines that will form the basis of emergency management agreements.

Ministers noted that progress has been made toward the development of a robust national public alerting system that would rapidly alert the public of imminent or unfolding dangers. All jurisdictions have been working toward this goal. Ministers also recognized the contribution of the public and private sector partnerships that have allowed for the delivery of timely warnings to broadcasters and distributors for distribution to their subscribers. They urged full participation of broadcasters and distributors to voluntarily carry emergency alert messages to Canadians.

Several other emergency management matters were also discussed, including mitigation funding and a means of recognizing exemplary service for those in the emergency management field.