Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario

Mario Dell’Osso 208472292

Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario

The purpose of this report is to examine both the Emergency Management Ontario and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, both organizations tasked with the management of disaster response in the two respective provinces. The research conducted is restricted to comparative analysis of the program based on the websites of the two organizations. The benchmark with which these two organization are going to be evaluated in the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) Z1600 (2008 edition) as this is the Canadian standard for comprehensive emergency management and business continuity programs.

Program Management
The Alberta program for emergency management is situated in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs whereas Ontario’s plan is situated in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. These two organizations have at their core very different roles in government and could affect the implantation of their program.

Legislation and Authority
In Ontario each ministry is required by the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to have continuity of operations planning in place to continue operations in a disaster. Also, through Order in Council (1492/2005) requires that specific ministries are responsible to respond to certain disasters, generally within that ministry’s expertise. Ontario through regulations (380/04) imposes more stringent standards in terms of program leadership. In Alberta the Emergency Management Act is very similar to that of Ontario. There is one fundamental difference, in that the regulations made under the Act (the Government Emergency Management Regulations 248/2007), and that being that creation of continuity of operations planning is collaborative. Not solely a responsibility of the ministry as is the case in Ontario, and even hazard specific plan are done in collaboration between the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and the ministry. The Alberta legislation explicitly permits mutual-aid agreements; this is not found in the Ontario legislation.

Financial Management
Both Ontario and Alberta have disaster relief funds to help with the recovery of the province, managed by the ministries responsible for municipal affairs. In Alberta funding is controlled by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and the responsible Minister; in Ontario, this decision is left to the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Alberta regulations clearly stipulate the limitations of the program, in Ontario it is held in a policy document. The Alberta regulation also allows people who are victim of a “local disaster” not necessarily a provincially declared disaster. 1

Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Despite the importance this plays in developing an emergency plan/continuity of operations plan Alberta does not have a clearly identified hazards that will be accounted for in their plan. Ontario in their Emergency Management Doctrine does outline 37 hazards which they are concerned with, additionally the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment for the Province of Ontario is available on the website. Alberta does not have listed on their website comprehensive hazard identification and risk assessment. Both provinces plan for individual emergencies that they deem to be important, largely to health of their residents or one’s which would have serious economic consequences. In Alberta, they have hazard specific plans for oil spills, foreign disease to animal (largely cattle), as well as a pandemic plan. In Ontario, they have a plan for nuclear disasters given that they have three nuclear stations. One would expect that Ontario, having survived SARS would have a comprehensive pandemic plan, however, none appears on the website. In this regard both provinces meet the requirements of Z1600, however, in my view Alberta’s approach is superior. The Z1600 largely deals with “all hazards” approach with the loss of buildings; it doesn’t specifically deal with pandemics which require a different approach. In this regard, Alberta exceeds the Z1600, Ontario meets the requirement.

Based on the 2000 edition of the Alberta Emergency Plan the plan is solely concerned with the response to various disasters and does not include and prevention. Similarly, Ontario’s plan mentions prevention as one of its pillars, however makes no indication of its implementation.

Both Alberta and Ontario lack a comprehensive mitigation plan, both acknowledge its importance to emergency management, however, neither implement such.

Mutual Aid/Assistance
Alberta’s regulations provide for the implementation of mutual aid with both the province of British Columbia and the State of Montana. Ontario in its emergency plan places the responsibility both on EMO and the municipalities to enter into mutual aid agreements as they deem necessary.

Emergency Response
Both Ontario and Alberta’s emergency plans focus their attention on the response to the emergency. In both provinces the response is largely tied to the size of the disaster as well as the resources that can be allocated.


Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario
In Ontario, the emergency plan calls upon various ministries to be prepared to provide various services during an emergency, this differs from the Alberta emergency plan and legislation which by law requires various organizations to provides services during an emergency. Ontario’s approach may not comply with Z160 as any ministry refusing to provide the services required could compromise the response abilities of the EMO, whereas Alberta has empowered the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to make such orders. This complies with Z1600 as it ensures important services are available if the case should arise where they are needed, as such Alberta’s approach is superior to Ontario in this regard.

Incident Management
Both Ontario and Alberta have an Incident Management System (IMS) and Incident Command System, respectively and both provide the training free of cost on their website. Both programs speak to the same result, whereby they are focused on coordinating response to an emergency. They both take root in the California wildfires of the 1970’s. In this regard both provinces meet the requirements of the Z1600 in regards to the establishment of an incident management system.

Alberta appears to be partaking in the new interoperability communications that is taking place in the 700hz band, this however is not present on the Emergency Management Ontario’s website. Public Warning Both Ontario and Alberta have emergency alerting systems, however, Alberta’s appears to be more advanced as on the website it contains a map of Alberta and when initialized will broadcast through various forms of media including twitter, Facebook, radio, television, and road signs. In Ontario, the public alerting is done through signing up for email, SMS, and weather is done through twitter; Ontario makes no reference to radio or television as Alberta does. It appears that both may meet the standard of the Z1600, although Alberta’s approach is more inclusive at it has greater audience than that of Ontario’s and therefore Alberta’s is superior.

Operational Procedures
Facilities Both Ontario and Alberta operate an emergency operations center (EOC). Ontario’s emergency operations center is well equipped with the ability for every ministry to have someone present during an emergency. Alberta states they operate an emergency operations center, however, provides little information on how well suited it is to operate and who will be in attendance during an emergency. Both Ontario and Alberta comply with Z1600 in this regard.

Both Ontario and Alberta have disaster recovery funds which they give to people, business, and municipalities affected by disasters. These funds only fund recovery to pre-disaster state, as such they do not account for any mitigation in its current sense. Although this is not a specific requirement of the Z160, it is implicit in that Z1600 calls for the recovery in accordance with hazard and risk identification.


Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario
In this regard both Ontario and Alberta fail to meet the standard in regards to recovery to a disaster mitigation state. Training Both Ontario and Alberta provide through their website and their respective emergency management organizations training for a variety of audiences. Both agencies provide Incident Management/Command System training available on the website. Ontario’s website contains more information with regards to exercises for people wishing to do so. Alberta on the other hand, does provide a lot of information but not all the same training is available. In this regard both provinces meet the requirements of Z1600.

Exercises, evaluations and corrective actions
Alberta’s emergency management program has a review of both the Slave Lake Wildfire disaster and the Flooding response in both instances they analyze the performance of the agency and make recommendations for future improvement. On the other hand, Ontario has a progress report with strategic objectives, but does not show the report of various responses or activations of the plan. In this case Alberta meets the requirements of Z1600, and unfortunately Ontario shows little compliance with the standard in this regard.

Management Review
Alberta unlike Ontario has a sunset date on their emergency plan which means that when that date arrives the plan is required to be reviewed. Ontario has no such mechanism in place within their plan, in that they do not establish specific guidelines as to the frequency with which review must occur. In this regard, Alberta meets the requirements of Z1600, Ontario does not.

Research Method It is important to note that this report conducts absolutely no live research, in that it relies completely on the information of the websites of the respective organizations. This may or may not be an accurate representation of the organizations operational capabilities or the actual program in place. Emergency management plans contain at times information not suitable for public dissemination as release of such information could hinder response or pose great risk to many, that being said the information on the websites of these organizations was not readily available.

Both Ontario and Alberta largely meet the requirements of the Z1600 in regards to their response and recovery plans. This does not mean by any means that they are conducting comprehensive emergency management, as they neglect to engage in any substantive mitigation and prevention practices. In fact, 4

Emergency Plan Comparative Analysis: Alberta and Ontario
both provinces seek a return to status quo, there are no guidelines to mitigation. So the situation remains where each province is left fixing the last disaster with little to no improvement. As the old saying goes, a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and mitigation and prevention is the prevention contemplated.

Having reviewed both Ontario’s and Alberta’s emergency management programs, I recommend the following course of action be taken:     Both provinces should actively engage in planning for mitigation and prevention planning as no such plans exist, and therefore they do not meet the requirements of Z1600. Ontario should consider adopting Alberta’s approach in emergency alerting as it is noted to have the best public alerting. Both provinces should provide more information regarding their plans, and continue to engage stakeholders to ensure their planning is realistic and accurate. Alberta should conduct a comprehensive hazard and risk identification, as none appears available to the public, in doing so it would allow residents to better understand and thus better prepare for potential hazards. Both Ontario and Alberta should make more information about their emergency management programs available on their website.