Regional collaboration in emergency management

·3 min read

The five independent municipal governments in the Cardston County area are working together in an effort to improve emergency responses in the region. Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) from Cardston County, the towns of Cardston and Magrath, and the villages of Hill Spring and Glenwood have been meeting together to form the best plan for emergency management in the area. In September, the team chose Cardston to be the lead manager on the project because intern J.D Haitsma was available to take it on. Haitsma shares that direction came from the group for him to find a consultant to help bring all of the municipal emergency management plans and training to a level of compliance. “The first thing I did,” says Haitsma, “was start searching for a consultant, and many involved suggested Mark Murphy as they had worked with him before in his role as field officer for the Southern region”. On further study it was clear that Mark Murphy of Murphy Emergency management consulting was indeed the best candidate for the contract and each municipality supported the decision to hire him.

A new emergency management bylaw is in the works to go along with this project and will establish the roles and responsibilities of each municipality. The province mandates that each municipality have their own Director of Emergency Management (DEM), which had traditionally been an extra role for the CAO, and an extra burden. These CAOs will remain DEM for their municipality but a separate role will be created for a regional DEM who can alleviate some of the burden on CAOs who will be left to focus better on the other parts of their job. Mark Murphy’s role is to create a good system of regional emergency management so that the regional DEM will be able to hit the ground running and maintain the prepared system. The regional DEM will will bear the responsibility of managing all of the emergency plans, keeping up with staff training and supplies/needs of the emergency coordination center, and could be engaged to run the crises centre should the emergency scale across multiple jurisdictions or should a CAO be unable to act as DEM during a local emergency. The specific details of who will fill the role, what the hours will look like, and job description are still being reviewed and defined by the partnership.

Haitsma adds that this project has been a great part of his internship with the town of Cardston, “I appreciate being entrusted by each CAO to manage this project and to work with the consultant -- I’ve learned about provincial legislation which has been a strength and an asset to me.” He is also proud to be working with regional partners who are well aligned on the collaboration, saying “I don’t think a lot of municipalities coordinate their emergency response regionally, but it is the best way to go if municipalities have good inter-municipal relationships like we do.”

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star