Steps in Developing a Municipal Emergency Program

1.     Conduct a Risk Assessment

A risk assessment evaluates the likelihood of a hazard or combination of hazards occurring, taking into account factors such as threat analysis, frequency, history, trends, and probability. It includes data on the impact of the risk event on the entity and on people, property, and the environment, (CSA Z1600-08).      

The AEMA Field Officers regularly review risk assessments with municipal directors of emergency management.

2.     Develop the Municipal Emergency Plan

The Municipal Emergency Plan (MEP), which is the product of all planning and preparedness activities, is designed to ensure a prompt and coordinated response for events that extend beyond routine emergencies. The director of emergency management and the emergency management agency are responsible for developing and maintaining the MEP. The emergency management committee of council should review the plan annually.

The MEP is the centrepiece of municipal emergency preparedness and response and is based on the principle that when a major emergency or disaster occurs, representatives of key response agencies and organizations (e.g. the emergency management agency) will assemble at the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) to provide support to the emergency site(s), to direct and co-ordinate overall response efforts and to address the needs of the municipality as a whole. The ECC is often located in the municipal office.

The plan may be activated in whole or in part at the discretion of the local authority and includes:

  • the process for notifying municipal officials and the public when an incident is imminent or has occurred.        

  • information regarding the ECC location and requirements. The ECC functions as a point of coordination or “nerve centre” anticipating and supporting the needs of one or more emergency sites, as well as addressing the needs of the municipality as a whole. The ECC is established in a suitable location away from the scene (e.g. municipal office).

  • a section including checklists for each key response area (e.g. director of emergency management, municipal administration, emergency public information, communications, public works, utilities, transportation, disaster social services, public health, schools, emergency site management).

  • as well, specialized response plans are added as required (e.g. evacuation plan, disaster social services response plan, and municipal support to health care centre emergency plan).

  • a reference section, which includes the Emergency Management Act, emergency management by-law, and mutual aid agreements.

The process of developing and maintaining the plan requires key players from different organizations and agencies to meet and work together under the overall guidance of the DEM. During this process, key players get to know one another and understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. Once the plan has been developed, it is submitted to council for review and approval.

Other local plans such as the health facility mass casualty response plan, public health, health facility evacuation plan and the school and school board emergency response plans must be coordinated with the municipal emergency plan.

In order to standardize municipal emergency plans and thereby facilitate regional assistance and mutual aid, the AEMA has developed a model MEP that is provided to municipal directors of emergency management. To review the complete model plan, contact the AEMA Field Officer for your area. It is highly recommended that you contact your municipal director of emergency management to learn about the plan for your community.

3.     Engage in Education and Training

Education and training are essential elements of an emergency management program. Training in the local area is very effective as it provides an opportunity for people who would work together in a disaster situation to learn and practice together. As well, the training can be tailored to local circumstances and situations. 

The AEMA Training Officers conduct various courses within the municipalities. For more information, contact the AEMA Field Officer for your area.

For the last several years, Alberta Municipal Affairs has allocated funding for emergency management and ground search and rescue training as a special initiative under the Municipal Sponsorship Program. Municipalities with a population under 20,000 are eligible to apply for this grant funding. Funding is also available under the fire services training initiative to expand and enhance fire services training and promote increased interdepartmental cooperation in the Alberta fire service.

Public awareness and education is another important aspect of municipal emergency preparedness. This could range from participating in special events during Emergency Preparedness Week and conducting workshops on personal disaster preparedness, to including information with utility bills and/or telephone books.

4.      Test the Plan

Testing the plan through exercises accomplishes the following:

  • trains the local team

  • validates the plan (will it work as intended?)

  • identifies areas of the plan that need revision

Exercises can range in scope from a tabletop exercise involving a single agency through to a live exercise that involves all components of the plan. 

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