By Michelle Guertin
The Disaster Plan Team wanted to take some time to shed some light on what’s going on in your province and how Emergency Management is coordinated and organized to serve you better! This month’s spotlight: Ontario!
The Ice Storm of 98’, the Etobicoke gas explosion (2003), the 2005 tornado in Southern Ontario, the Burlington VIA derailment (2012). All these events have been marked in the minds and hearts of Ontarians over the past few decades as significant events that devastated our communities and families. So how did we respond? What was done to ease the suffering of the affected communities? How did we help? Ontario Emergency Management (OEM) has been around since 1980, providing Ontarians with emergency and disaster management services.
The emergency management program within the province of Ontario establishes a very detailed framework in which activities are coordinated to allow the effective and timely response to emergency and disaster incidents throughout the province. The figure below depicts the response structure for emergencies within Ontario (non-nuclear).
Government of Ontario. (2008). Province of Ontario Emergency Response Plan. Retrieved on 26 Feb 18 from
Each municipality is required to have an emergency/disaster response program, which is usually published on the city or town’s website. Most incidents are dealt with at the local level by well-trained emergency responders, but when incidents are larger in scale, the head council may act and declare an emergency to assemble local officials to the Municipal Operations Center, which can be subsequently elevated to the Provincial Emergency Operations Center (PEOC).
Ontario’s PEOC is currently located at the Coroner’s Complex in the Downsview area of Toronto (Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex). I had the privilege to attend one of their monthly professional development sessions last fall and let me tell you, this PEOC is impressive! The room has an 82 person operations room with a display wall used for real-time monitoring of activities and emergencies all across the province, measuring 21m wide! The main function of this hub is to coordinate the government’s response to major incidents, providing municipalities and First Nations communities with a single point of contacts.
With many resources at their disposal, the PEOC can dispatch emergency medical assistance teams to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear response teams. One of the new tools that are in place and being developed is the ability to inform the public of an emergency through the mass dissemination of messages. There are 3 types of warnings: Red Alerts, Emergency Information Advisories and Tornado Warnings. To receive these messages via email or on your smartphone, you need to subscribe to their warning service. They are currently looking to move to a Wireless Public Alerting Service that would allow emergency management personnel and services (police, fire, PEOC) to send out alerts to all people with compatible mobile devices in a particular geographic area. Although there is no official release date for this new service, a pilot project took place in the East of Toronto between 01 April to 20 September 2016. For more information check out this link!
Government of Ontario. (2015, May 4). New Provincial Emergency Operations Center. Retrieved on 21 Feb 2018 from https://news.ontario.ca/mcscs/en/2015/05/new-provincial-emergency-operations-centre.html
Government of Ontario. (2017, December 15). Inside Emergency Management. Retrieved on 21 Feb 2018 from https://www.emergencymanagementontario.ca/english/insideemo/insideemo.html
Government of Ontario. (2008). Province of Ontario Emergency Response Plan. Retrieved on 26 Feb 18 from https://www.emergencymanagementontario.ca/english/emcommunity/response_resources/plans/provinicial_emergency_response_plan.html#P198_26591
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