On the occasion of receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by DRI International

Awards of Excellence_Winner - Lifetime AchievementAcceptance speech by Brian Miller on the occasion of receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by DRI International on March 8, 2016

Friends, colleagues and conference delegates; as I stand here before you this evening, I feel somewhat uneasy because I know of many others who are also deserving of this award. Congratulations to all the nominees; the nomination itself is an important recognition of a significant contribution to our profession. I wish to thank the people in Canada, United States and other countries who took the time to cast a vote for any of the candidates.

It is indeed a great honour to be recommended and selected by my peers and it is many of those same people to whom I owe such gratitude for supporting me through the times when difficult decisions were made and significant risks taken to ensDRI Awardure and augment our profession.

My career in business continuity and emergency management has been enhanced by my involvement in DRI CANADA, DRI International, the Disaster Recovery Information Exchange and the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness. While I contributed to these organizations in leadership roles, they gave back so much more than I put in. It is like having a bank account that pays 125% interest on deposits.

The words “lifetime achievement” sound like it is the end of a great period but there remains much more to come! I am looking forward to achieving many more milestones in our profession and I ask you to join me on the rest of the journey. I am appealing to you to seek opportunities to volunteer within our profession, it is only through selfless dedication that we can all move forward. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: Far and away, the best prize in life is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

 

Removing Barriers to Incident Command System Training

Incident commander vest Vanguard EMC is proud to introduce our new, free online course “Orientation to the Incident Command System” (ICS 100). How does it work? Simply take the course and follow through to the 20-question exam. Students who achieve over 80% on the online exam will be sent a digital certificate.

This course is available free of charge and at any time. It is self-directed and interactive with periodic knowledge checks to help learners reinforce their knowledge. It is designed to leave someone who has no previous knowledge of ICS with a ‘big picture’ overview of how and why ICS works. Time to completion will vary but should be a couple hours to a half-day for most participants.

Why should I learn about ICS?

ICS is the standard for managing the incidents requiring multiple agencies across North America. Its effectiveness in practice, like that of email or a fax machine, is tied to how many people have adopted it into use. Promoting the adoption of ICS among Canadians is an objective of Vanguard EMC.

In Canada, ICS was first adopted as a way to coordinate efforts among many organizations in fighting forest fires on the West Coast. Since then, it has grown to encompass all first response organizations, including paramedics, police and firefighters. It is quickly becoming the norm for proactive private companies and government departments to use ICS in their emergency planning. Operations Chief vest

Vanguard EMC and ICS

Vanguard EMC’s objectives in providing free training are threefold. First, we aim to raise awareness and understanding of the Incident Command System in Canada among professionals who do not work in emergency management. Second, we want to lower barriers to ICS implementation for organizations. The online option will give planners the ability to quickly introduce many in their workforce to the concepts of ICS. Third, we hope to provide a sample of Vanguard EMC’s expertise to a broader audience and encourage you to enrol in our more advanced training.

Professionals who want to know more about ICS are welcome to register for our ICS 200, 300 and 400 level courses or a related course in emergency management, listed here. In addition to training, Vanguard EMC offers auditing and consulting services in emergency management and business continuity.

 

Lockdown? Shelter-in-place? Hold and Secure?

Pop quiz!

You are the Chief Emergency Warden of a workplace two blocks from an escalating protest. The crowd could become unruly and shift toward to your building. You decide to lock the exterior doors, close blinds, advise employees of the situation and ask them to remain indoors, away from exterior windows, until the protest has been resolved. You place signs in the main doors advising that your business is closed until further notice.

Now, from the list below, which procedure did you just perform?

  • Lockdown
  • Shelter-in-Place
  • Hold and Secure

Chances are, regardless of which you chose, a significant number of your peers will have chosen something else. Your answer was likely determined by some combination of your organization’s own terminology, when and where you were trained in emergency management, and your role within emergency management.Picture Blog May 2015

The inconsistency of emergency management terminology across industries, geography, and various schools of thought may create additional confusion or miscommunication during an emergency, thereby placing people and property at risk. We, as an industry, should strive for common terminology among roles and organizations to mitigate this risk.

Vanguard EMC’s presentation at the upcoming DRIE Ottawa’s 2015 Annual Conference will address this inconsistency and will appeal for a push toward standardization in terminology across the industry.

How do you define these terms? Which publications do you consider ‘authoritative’ on EM terminology? Have you witnessed inconsistent communication cause harm in your organization? Please comment below or join us June 3rd in Ottawa!

(My answer: Hold and Secure)

Enhanced Exercise Implementation at Vanguard

What would happen if your organization was affected by multiple incidents at more than one location? Have your plans ever been tested or your employees exercised in a multifaceted scenario?

In February of 2015, the Vanguard EMC team successfully navigated their most complex exercise to date. It was multi-location (3400 km apart), multi-functional, multi-scenario and included the use of the Incident Command System (ICS) for response and recovery.

The multi-location aspect necessitated tight control of timing in the design phase to keep the exercise sites synchronised. In preparation, the exercise design team worked tirelessly to refine each inject to support the exercise objectives and ensure each participant had the opportunity to practice their role.

Multiple dry-runs were instrumental in achieving a successful outcome. These dry-runs helped to identify and resolve many small issues that, if unchecked, could have become ‘disconnects’ during the live exercise.

The team learned that direct voice communication for the facilitator support is not always required; email and text work well. Facilitator support proved essential to the smooth coordination of the complex exercise.

Vanguard provided an ICS expert for each of the response and recovery teams to guide the players through the implementation of the Incident Management system. Access to an ICS coach was helpful to the participants as it provided them with more confidence.

The Vanguard EMC team was explicitly thanked for our expertise and support by an Executive VP and several Directors of the client organization.

We look forward to sharing our skills with other organizations, helping them to achieve a higher resilience through advanced exercise implementation.

 

Tips on Preparing a 72 hour kit

The following list is credited to  CEO at UNITED SPIRIT OF AMERICA from a LinkedIn posting entitled “Experts defined the 12 Biggest Mistakes when preparing for a disaster… I like your comments, additions and objections to them.” As this LinkedIn group is a members only site, we have edited and posted the information to this blog.

Tip 01

Buy products that do not require clean water to work.
One of the most common effects of a disaster zone is the inability to get clean water.

Tip 02

Buy products that are light and easy to carry.
Assume that you may be injured and/or may not have the strength to carry heavy objects after a disaster occur.

Tip 03

Buy products that are not scented or do not have strong odors.
Wildlife is attracted to scent. From mosquitoes to large predators their sense of smell is one of their most effective sources for finding food.

Tip 04

Buy products that do not depend on electrical power.
One of the first things that fail when a disaster of any kind strikes is electrical power, buying products that require electrical power may be just a waste of money.

Tip 05

Buy products with long shelf life.
Products with less than 3 years of shelf life may be expired and unusable when you really need them.

Tip 06

Buy first aid products and hygiene products that are needed on a daily basis.
People will use hygiene products regardless if they are injured or not, but most people buy first aid products and forget what they use on a daily basis.

Tip 07

Buy based on how good it works not how cheap it is.
Everybody wants to save money but when a disaster call you need to have the best most reliable products… your life my depend on them

Tip 08

Buy products that can perform for a least 72 hours.
The first 72 hours after a disaster are key, most emergency and survival support agencies and institutions can’t reach you. If you don’t have enough to survive those 72 hours a simple thing such as antibacterial protection could become a serious health issue.

Tip 09

Do not take wind, sunshine, protection from bugs and water for granted.
When disaster strikes your “normal” environment disappears and too much wind, sunshine and/or bugs can make your survival very challenging.

Tip 10

After food and shelter is secured the most important issue is your hygiene.
In a disaster the possibility of getting sick by contagious diseases grow exponentially with time, hygiene products are just as essential as shelter and food, make sure you have enough.

Tip 11

Whenever possible, include extra supplies rather than the minimum.
When people buy their products they should take into account that some people close to them (neighbors for example) may not have theirs or could have lost them in the disaster and then everyone would have to share…

Tip 12

Buy products that were designed for an emergency.
People sometimes buy products based on price rather than effectiveness and at the time of a disaster they wonder why their products don’t perform to the task ahead.

Tip 13 (Credited to a comment by Jennifer Robitaille )

Do not forget about your pets.
Pets are like a member of your family and will need access to clean water, shelter and food.

Tip 14 (Credited to a comment by Guy Cullum)

Include simple entertainment like books or cards.  Most survival is waiting and dealing with the waiting. Having things to keep the mind active and people not focused on what has happened is vital for mental health for adults and children.

Strong Emergency Management and Business Continuity Plans include employee home preparedness

Resiliency of your Emergency Management and Business Continuity Plans rely on company human resources to ensure that the processes you have put in place are put into action. In any catastrophic event, our natural instinct is to protect ourselves and our family.  In time of crisis, the employee you need on site may not be available because of concerns at home. Alternatively, the employee may be on site for you but the worry about family members at home may interfere with the employee’s ability to fully focus on your needs.

As the first full week of May marks Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada, it’s a good time to think about ensuring your employees are prepared at home in the event that you need them at work to implement your EM and BC plans. What can your employees do to be ready at home in the event you need them to help in a time of crisis? What can you do to help them focus on your needs and ensure that their families are taken care of while they are at work?

Here are just a few ideas to help you prepare your employees in case you need them:

  • Provide information about home emergency preparedness in your plan training and exercise sessions.
  • Create a flyer or webpage with tips to emergency preparedness for your employees.
  • Encourage your employees to create a family emergency plan. Kids love scavenger hunts. What a great way to have your employee make it a fun family activity by challenging their children to hunt around the house to fill their emergency preparedness kit.
  • Include in your EM and BC plans some potential options to ensure the safety and welfare of your employees’ families in the event you need them at work. Knowing their families are safe will benefit both you and your employees by allowing them to focus on your needs without worrying about their family members.

Public Safety Canada has a wealth of information and materials that you can share with employees, including promotional materials, flyers and posters. You can find more information at http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/.

Get prepared! Know the risks, create your family plan and prepare your emergency kit.

Vanguard EMC endorses the Reaching Resilience BC/EM conference 2013

There is a lot of choice when it comes to quality business continuity and emergency management conference style educational opportunities in Canada and the US.

The WCDM in Toronto in June is always a big attraction and has provided our profession with many years of sessions to reinforce our knowledge and provoke our thought. EPICC in Vancouver is another venue that has been available for professionals in the Western provinces.

The 2013 Reaching Resilience Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Center on May 27, 28, 2013 is a focused learning event that is organized by Malcolm Smeaton who in his previous role with the Ontario government chaired a similar event for six years from 2007 to 2012. Each year that conference was a great success, thanks primarily to the support of delegates and presenters. Reaching Resilience includes speakers on security, business continuity, cyber security, life safety, workplace violence, privacy and crisis management. Speakers came from the public service, academia, police, military, business, industry and the legal community. They also hail from all across Canada and the United States.

This year, three members of our Vanguard EMC team will be presenting at Reaching Resilience on the topic of Getting the Best Value from Exercises. In our practice, Lisa Maddock, Cynthia Wenn and I participate in the detailed planning, facilitation and report creation for many medium and large scale exercises including multiple rooms and simulation cells. While providing our clients with methodology, advice and experience we have also garnered a significant amount of exposure to the subtleties regarding what works and what does not. In addition, we have developed some unique methods of simulating communication and social media that will be helpful to the Reaching Resilience conference delegates.

We believe there is good value in this conference and encourage you to look at the program on their web site 2013 Reaching Resilience Conference

Looking forward to seeing you there!

 

10 Ways to Improve your Awareness and Training Programmes – tip #10 Annual Report or Executive Briefing

Now your organization has a thoroughly researched, well written business continuity plan sleeping on a shelf somewhere. Time to get the word out!  All employees need to be aware of their role in the plan.  The various team members need to be given some training before they can start to exercise the plan.

Tip #10 Conduct an annual executive briefing and an annual report on the state of the program

The best method to keep executives up to date on program strategies is to include this information during executive or steering committee meetings so the same people that make decisions regarding risk management strategies are the ones that implement them during a disruptive event.  This also gives board members or ministers the opportunity to question senior management on their responsibilities during an event.  Be prepared with answers or training opportunities.Vanguardtrainingmaterial

Training and testing are intertwined.  After an exercise you may find an increase in demand for further training.  Take advantage of any momentum and schedule training immediately following the exercise while the need is still clear in the minds of participants.

If you are able to use these ten tips to promote awareness and training in your organization, your business continuity program will start to have real energy, your people will start to possess strong BC plan understanding, and your teams will be ready for a challenging exercise.

Congratulations! Business continuity is now a serious endeavour in your organization.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Seven – Awareness and Training Programs DRII Professional Practices  June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Awareness and Training Programmes – tip #9 Employee Orientations

Now your organization has a thoroughly researched, well written business continuity plan sleeping on a shelf somewhere. Time to get the word out!  All employees need to be aware of their role in the plan.  The various team members need to be given some training before they can start to exercise the plan.

Tip #9 Get involved in new employee orientations

Orientations are a great time to provide employees with a general understanding of your business continuity program and to make them aware of ways that they can obtain further information.  Wallet cards or other items should be part of their orientation package.

If you are able to make a live presentation during the orientation, find out if any of the new employees has specific business continuity responsibilities.  Be prepared to give these people specific training information including training times and expectations.  A disaster could occur on their first day on the job!

Book time with new executives to provide them with a briefing on the business continuity program, the plan and any required training. Make certain to offer a tour of the EOC.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Seven – Awareness and Training Programs DRII Professional Practices  June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

10 Ways to Improve your Awareness and Training Programmes – tip #8 Job Descriptions

Now your organization has a thoroughly researched, well written business continuity plan sleeping on a shelf somewhere. Time to get the word out!  All employees need to be aware of their role in the plan.  The various team members need to be given some training before they can start to exercise the plan.

Tip #8 Have business continuity expectations included in job descriptions of key positions

In the plan you have designated certain responsibilities to employees according to their job title.  Have human resources add these responsibilities to the job description.  This has several important benefits:

  1. Job postings will include this responsibility giving an advantage to job seekers that are already trained for this role
  2. Performance reviews will include a review of business continuity responsibilities
  3. New employees taking over the role will seek out training if they are not prepared for the responsibility
  4. Business continuity will no longer be “in addition to my job” but a part of it

Make sure that you include updating these job descriptions as part of your maintenance program.

(For more information on DRI’s professional practices please read Professional Practice Seven – Awareness and Training Programs DRII Professional Practices  June 1, 2012 Version 1)

‘When planning for war, I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.’ General Eisenhower

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