Monday, March 23, 2015

MD of Pincher Creek approves up to $50 thousand for Emergency Management training

Chris Davis

At their March 10 meeting, council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 approved the expenditure of up to $50,000 to cover hiring a consultant to train MD and Village of Cowley staff "to a suitable level in case an Emergency Control Centre needed to be activated, as well as developing an Emergency Management Plan". Councillor Garry Marchuk asked for a recorded vote.

Voting in favour of the expenditure were Reeve Brian Hammond and councillors Terry Yagos and Fred Schoening. Opposed were councillors Marchuk and Grant MacNab. The MD of Pincher Creek and Village of Cowley Emergency Preparedness Partnership was initiated after the MD decided last fall to withdraw from a partnership with the Town of Pincher Creek in a Joint Emergency Management Agreement, the Pincher Creek Community Emergency Management Agency (PCCEMA), and to create their own emergency management plan.

According to Kay's recommendation to council, "The 2015 budget did not include additional funds for Emergency Management, outside of last year's funding provided under the Joint Emergency Management Agreement. Until such time as mediation been concluded we are unable to determine if there will be funds available from (that) account. The MD, Cowley, and the Town of Pincher Creek are currently in mediation regarding the cancelled PCCEMA agreement.

According to the report made by MD CAO Wendy Kay to council on the subject, an application for funding up to $70,000 toward this project has to date "not been forthcoming and it is our understanding that this particular funding program has been inundated with applications. Municipal Affairs is hopeful that within the next few weeks announcements will be made on whether we were successful in receiving funding or not".
"As there is uncertainty on whether we will receive the requested grant, the Chief Administrative Officer has been working with the consultant on ways to decrease the original cost estimate. Attached is a proposal reducing the cost by $20,000, thereby a total project cost of $50,000.00. The reduction in cost was achieved by reducing the scope of work that was to be completed by the consultant, and adding additional work to the MD (i.e.photocopying and printing)."

According to Kay's recommendation to council "With spring just around corner, Administration feels it is imperative to get this project underway. The Consultant has advised that he would be available to start training staff by the end of March".

"The Director of Finance has advised of two suitable funding sources. We are anticipating an additional $800,000 revenue for 2015, due to a wind farm being brought online. The second suggested source would be the Mill Rate Stabilization Reserve which currently has a balance of $1,153,584.13. This would be a one-time expense for this project and this reserve would be suitable for this project.

Kenneth Kendall of Kenneth Kendall Consulting (KKC) is to be the lead consultant, with the assistance of MSC Consulting Limited's Murray Castle. According to the KKC proposal submitted to the MD "Our consulting team has completed many regional initiatives including a project for Alberta Emergency Management Agency, (AEMA) involving the study of regional emergency management structures and processes. Part of the project was the creation of a generic emergency management plan to be used as an example template to any municipalities considering regionalization. A portion of our study focused on the challenge of EOC operations during a regional event. What we know from our many years of experience as front line responders and directors of emergency management is that the coordination of multiple EOCs is difficult and in some cases counter-intuitive to municipal administrations tendencies and political influences. It therefore becomes imperative that regular exercising and strong relationships at the political, administrative, emergency manager and first responder levels is critical. Not surprisingly, the first responders of neighbouring municipalities generally have a great working relationship or in a few instances they force themselves to work together to solve a problem they face during a major response. This continual overlap of first responders and in some cases joint training goes far to improve response. That is not the case for the administrative layers above the first responders."
"Emergency management is a perishable skill set that needs to be exercised regularly by municipalities. This is especially true if you wish to create a regional response agency to react during larger events. From our previous work on regional initiatives we do know that each region has its own nuances and personality. A cookie cutter approach is not necessarily the best practice, especially when working to develop a properly functioning emergency response entity. We will evaluate the existing preparedness, and determine options going forward for senior first responders, senior municipal administration and elected officials."
The proposal includes three guiding principles for a coordinated response to an event:
  • Is there a command structure in place to lead the regional effort? 
  • How does this command structure get activated? 
  • Is there single EOC established to make regional decisions regarding response?
According to the proposal a training process would be developed based upon consultant findings that would "identify for the clients potential friction points that might occur during the development and avoid these issues in the planning stage. This avoidance of potential problems will help ensure a smooth transition that concentrates on operational challenges based on the reality and reduces wasted effort and energy on a poorly planned and executed project implementation.

The proposal states that the implementation of a regional plan will require a model which all participants agree with and may include "different options available for consideration based on our experience with working in other parts of the province" including:
  • How is the emergency response system mobilized?
  • What EOC takes the lead during such an event and how is this determined?
  • What communication links will work best and how robust and reliable will they be given the scenario?
  • If multiple EOC's are used what processes will be used to coordinate efforts of each individual EOC?
  • How will resources be prioritized?
Included will be training in the Incident Command System (ICS) from Level 100 through to Level 300. "All designated personnel from each municipality will be trained to ICS Canada standards and receive a certificate. Multiple emergency exercises for each municipality to create a level of comfort and larger regional exercises involving multiple municipalities to a level of acceptable readiness."

During discussions about the subject, Councillor Terry Yagos agreed that expediency of accomplishing the training was important "Considering how dry it's looking out there". CAO Wendy Kay said it would take approximately a week to complete the training, and council members would be involved as participants.

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