RCMP Emergency Preparedness
JENI SANDEMAN
© 2006 FrontLine Security (Vol 1, No 2)

The RCMP is one of many key organizations taking potential health threats seriously, and as such, has been working closely with federal, provincial, territorial and municipal health, government and emergency partners.


 
The RCMP, Canada’s national police service and part of the portfolio of the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, is one of many key organizations taking potential threats to health seriously. As such, it has been working closely with federal, provincial, territorial and municipal health, government and emergency partners. The RCMP’s unique status as a federal, provincial, municipal and international policing body makes it a very important piece of the pandemic planning and response process in Canada.

Over the past few months the RCMP has ramped up its national, regional and divisional emergency operations planning along with business continuity efforts to ensure the organization is prepared in the event of an influenza pandemic.

“The RCMP operates in a very dynamic environment, and as such, planning, preparedness and applying the appropriate response is crucial to ensuring public safety and security, especially during a crisis situation such as a pandemic. The planning is very comprehensive and ongoing to prepare for the predicted influenza pandemic,” explains Brian Porrior, Officer in Charge of RCMP Emergency Management.

RCMP business continuity planning (BCP) is an initiative under the Departmental Security Officer. Taking an all hazards approach, the RCMP’s overall BCP is to continue to provide critical services to both internal and external clients by using procedures and mechanisms for prevention, response, continuity and recovery prior to, during and after crisis situations. The following are some of the key business continuity elements of pandemic planning:

  • a work force resilience plan aimed at providing support services to RCMP employees and their families to ensure as many employees are at work as possible;
  • a communication plan to educate employees and their families to help protect themselves, to work in a safe manner and to convey key messages about the RCMP’s role and planned response;
  • a health plan to address various protocols that will help ensure a healthy work environment; and
  • an ethics framework to provide extra guidance to RCMP employees in a crisis-driven and demanding environment.

In addition to its overall emergency management mandate, the RCMP established the Critical Incident Preparedness and Response Initiative (CIPAR) in the Fall of 2005. The purpose of CIPAR is to review all aspects of the RCMP’s readiness to respond to emergencies. “As a progressive organization, the RCMP recognized the need to initiate CIPAR,” says Assistant Commissioner John Neily, Officer in Charge of the RCMP Critical Incident Preparedness and Response Initiative. “Just as 2001 reinforced the need to advance national security measures, the tragic events that happened at the tail-end of 2004 and over the course of 2005 underlined the importance of reviewing and enhancing emergency management and response measures.”

In the event of an influenza pandemic, the organization would contribute to the Government of Canada’s response by providing assistance and support to public health authorities in the containment of the pandemic by:

  • enforcing control measures;
  • maintaining order;
  • providing protective security;
  • ensuring public safety; and
  • assisting other emergency service providers as required.

The RCMP is committed to these emergency response duties during a pandemic and will address the highest priority areas to help maintain public safety and security during such a crisis. “What this means is that we would take a risk management approach, where our first priority would be to provide assistance to public health agencies/professionals to contain the pandemic. Minimizing societal disruption would be a secondary priority during a pandemic outbreak,” states Neily. He noted these two priorities would take precedence over any task deemed as a low priority.

That being said, an important consideration is the RCMP’s multi-faceted mandate. Working closely with key domestic and international governments, the law enforcement, community and other partners, the RCMP provides assistance in maintaining and protecting public safety; preserving the peace; enforcing the law; and maintaining border integrity and national security.

Business continuity protocols will ensure that even through a crisis event such as a pandemic, the RCMP will be able, in a priority-based capacity, to continue to provide its policing services to the provinces and territories as well as serving more than 200 municipalities and 192 Aboriginal communities across Canada.

No emergency planning process can be fully comprehensive without an effective communication plan for internal and external awareness, and for conveying important information about emergency and business continuity planning. Providing RCMP employees with timely, consistent, trusted and accurate information is critical to the communication process, helps to ensure employees are well informed, and in turn have key information that they could share with their families and their communities. Effective communication on all fronts helps to develop a clear understanding of the impact of an emergency.

The resilience of employees during a time of crisis is critical to providing and maintaining assistance and support to Canadians and the RCMP’s partners. Senior management recognizes that RCMP employees are committed to respond to the call of duty during an emergency and must be well-informed about any such threats. In saying this however, the RCMP realizes that every emergency brings uncertainty, and it is difficult to prepare employees for everything that might occur and to anticipate how long a crisis could last.

Training and preparing its employees to handle crisis/emergency situations, such as pandemics, and to quickly mobilize its personnel when required is another priority for the RCMP. Through its continued commitment to maintain public safety and security, the RCMP ensures that its employees are properly equipped with the tools and aids necessary to handle sensitive and difficult situations such as pandemics. As part of its common practice, the RCMP is researching and developing the necessary standards and protocols to guide our organization through a pandemic.

“The RCMP is a unique organization in that it provides policing services at all levels – federal, municipal, provincial and territorial and international. And for this reason we take an integrated approach in all that we do,” says Neily. “Emergency management and business continuity planning for crisis events such as pandemics are done in concert with key internal and external partners with the safety of employees and the public in mind.”

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Jeni Sandeman is an Acting Team Leader in Strategic Communications, Public Affairs and Communication Services Directorate at RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa.
© FrontLine Security 2006

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