An independent review has been released on Alberta’s response to the 2013 floods. The report makes a number of recommendations to improve future disaster response.
The report makes 16 recommendations to enhance and improve the province’s emergency response and recovery procedures. The government has accepted 15 recommendations and one in principle, and work on implementing these is underway. Some of these recommendations include: redesigning the Disaster Recovery Program, providing more disaster management training, and conducting more emergency training exercises.
In preparing the report, MNP interviewed dozens of stakeholders including the municipalities and organizations directly affected by the disaster. The report will help ensure the government is better prepared to respond to future disasters quickly and effectively.
After every large disaster, a third-party review is conducted to ensure government finds out what worked well and where improvements can be made.
The review of the devastating 2013 floods, the most widespread and costliest disaster in Alberta history, is complete and available online.
The 16 recommendations are summarized below. Fifteen recommendations have been accepted and one has been accepted in principle. The full list of recommendations is available at http://www.aema.alberta.ca/
- Develop an Emergency Management Staff Wellness Program:
- Assist in the caring for government staff physical and mental health, both during and after disaster.
Status: underway – Managers and staff are encouraged to complete stress management training and there is increased emphasis on the availability of the GoA Employee Family Assistance program to staff.
- Complete the update to the Alberta Emergency Plan:
- Alberta Emergency Plan to be considered a key document for ensuring a unified and coordinated approach to emergency management in the province.
Status: underway – The update to the 2015 Alberta Emergency Plan (AEP) was reviewed by the Deputy Minister Public Safety Committee in October 2015 and will be submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for approval.
- Maintain existing frameworks, structures and plans, and implement identified improvements:
- Key frameworks, structures and plans that were in place prior to the 2013 floods, or developed during recovery, proved to be effective, and should be adjusted as required and fully embedded into the emergency management system.
Status: underway – A cross-ministry working group with Human Services, Aboriginal Relations and Municipal Affairs, led by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is developing an update to the provincial recovery strategy.
- Develop and implement a Provincial Emergency Social Services framework:
- This framework is considered a priority.
- Working collaboratively with municipalities, non-governmental organizations and applicable Government of Alberta ministries to develop and ensure a unified approach. Human Services is the lead ministry on this work.
Status: underway – Human Services is working with stakeholders to establish a Provincial Emergency Social Services Framework. This framework provides a plan for the delivery of emergency social services to support both immediate and long-term supports in the event that provincial assistance is required by local authorities.
- Complete the redesign and implement changes to the Disaster Recovery Program:
- Specific attention should be paid to streamlining the overall process, continuing the awareness campaign and improvements to the processing of individual files.
Status: underway – As of March 31, 2015 the provincial Disaster Recovery program was moved from an external provider to within government. Steps to improve the program include:
- A case management model is now being used to improve communication to applicants. This model provides the AEMA with flexibility to hire more staff if required to support future disasters.
- More than 60 additional full and part-time staff have been hired to increase service.
- An improved electronic file management system.
- The government continues to find more ways to improve the program by speeding up processes, and providing financial assistance to disaster victims more quickly. The program seeks feedback to improve the program from applicants and stakeholders.
- Develop a new, state-of-the-art Provincial Operations Centre (POC) facility:
- The new POC facility could either be a purpose-built facility or constructed in an existing government building. New facility should include the required physical and IT infrastructure and resilience, adequate size and layout to properly house all emergency management partners and incident management software to enable more effective situational awareness, information management, coordinating and tracking of activities and resources and reporting.
Status: underway – Although there is clearly room to improve the operations centre, the current facility is functional and new incident management software is being used. A new provincial operations centre is one of many infrastructure projects identified through the capital construction program.
- Continue to refine and improve Government of Alberta Business Continuity Plans:
- Ongoing effort should focus on plan and program assessment and refinement, enhancing business continuity plans at the department and agency level, and include training and exercises.
Status: underway – The most current Government of Alberta Business Continuity Plan was signed in January 2013 and is subject to review in 2016. Government regularly reviews business continuity plans to ensure best practices are being used.
- Ensure training, awareness and exercises are a top priority and continue to develop, enhance and fund these activities:
- Training both internal to government and within municipalities are critical components of building emergency management capacity. A comprehensive training program is should include different delivery methods and continue to evolve to the meet the needs of the different audiences.
Status: underway – AEMA leads a comprehensive emergency management training program and exercise program to ensure staff, the government and communities have the necessary skills to respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters.
- Continue to enhance and develop the Field Officer program:
- Field officers are a key component of the emergency management system. It is recommended the program remain a priority and ensure funding is in place to keep positions as full-time and provide training to minimize turnover so relationships with municipalities are maintained.
Status: underway – AEMA has hired additional field officers and their role has expanded to provide emergency management training in communities.
- Support and facilitate regionalization of emergency management in Alberta:
- The concept of regionalization for emergency management has proven to be highly effective and increases capacity at the municipal level. The province continues to encourage communities to maximize their resources and better coordinate emergency management through regional collaboration.
Status: underway – AEMA field officers are available to advise communities on the development of regional approaches to emergency management and to support efforts of regionalization, a community-led initiative.
- Support and focus emergency management capacity building in First Nations:
- First Nations field officer program and building emergency management capacity in First Nations remains a priority. Individuals selected as field officers receive the requisite cultural training and build relationships with the communities.
Status: underway – AEMA has hired additional First Nations field officers and their role has expanded to provide emergency management training to First Nations communities.
- Address staffing and staff capacity challenges through training and select hiring for key positions:
- Staffing levels and capacity will always be an issue during a large-scale emergency. The hiring of additional staff should be targeted and focused on high-priority capacity-building positions; such as field officers and AEMA personnel to plan and implement training and staff for key disaster management and recovery positions.
Status: underway – AEMA is hiring more staff to be in place in early 2016.
- Pre-qualify vendors and create a standing offer/vendor of record list for contracted emergency management response and recovery services:
- Emergency management response and recovery services should include, but not be limited to: temporary accommodations, construction services, building damage assessment, food services, and transportation.
Status: underway (recommendation accepted in principle) – AEMA has identified and prioritized the services necessary for emergency response and recovery and is developing a guide to the availability and cost structure for the services.
- Improve communications and information passage within the Government of Alberta, to municipalities and to the public:
- Implement an effective emergency management software system and supporting processes in the provincial operations centre, provide crisis communications training to staff, consider one point of contact for MLAs and provide information when requested.
Status: underway – Improvements in communications have been implemented including:
- New incident management software to be used for provincial operations centre. Crisis communications training has been provided to communications staff. A single point of contact to provide information directly to MLAs has been established.
- Complete work on previously identified areas for improvement:
- Significant emergency management improvement was made after the 2011 fires in Slave Lake and these should be a priority including: redesign of the DRP, completion of the Alberta Emergency Plan and development and implementation of the emergency social services framework.
Status: underway – The government is currently considering options to review the design of the Disaster Recovery Program.
- Completion and rollout of the updated Alberta Emergency Plan is underway.
- Development and implementation of the Emergency Social Services Framework is underway, led by Human Services.
- Document procedures that were developed and effectively used during the 2013 floods and action items identified in numerous after action reviews completed to date:
- The government should document and formalize procedures and processes that were developed at time of the disaster and ensure that recommendations are followed through to completion.
Status: underway – A post-incident review process has been established and the AEMA continually tracks the implementation of lessons learned reports after emergencies or disasters.