Great learning opportunities with the US and Canada

USA and Canada

8 September, 2017

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley will travel to the USA and Canada over a two week period this month to learn from emergency management agencies in key cities and further the partnerships currently in place.

The trip covers Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chicago and Seattle in the USA and into Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto in Canada.

Mr Lapsley said America and Canada have much to offer and to learn from including the strategic challenges and similar interest in climate change and population growth in urban areas, and a focus on building resilience in emergency management sector and communities.

Recent fires on the edge of Los Angeles and in British Columbia have been described as the largest wildfires the areas have faced, with large community evacuations and areas burnt.    Hurricane Harvey has also had devastating consequences.    

Los Angeles - innovation, change and challenge across firefighting

Meeting with the Los Angeles Fire Department is offering the opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion in the recruitment of firefighters and urban firefighting challenges, both of which are challenges Victoria continues to experience.

Los Angeles County Fire Department provides a different chance to learn about peri urban firefighting challenges, innovation in firefighting aviation and water (beach) safety with LACoFD being a provider of life guards on high profile and very busy beaches.

Sacramento - the future shape of operational information

In Sacramento, Mr Lapsley will meet with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) to discuss the future development of Victoria's Emergency Management Common Operating Picture (EMCOP) system and to strengthen the existing strategic partnership.

EMCOP is a web-based information gathering, planning and collaboration tool which enables effective decision making in emergencies for incident managers and communities and was rolled out in Victoria last summer.

The meeting in Sacramento builds on previous work on the platform between the partners, and the discussions planned about the future of the world-leading system has been 12 months in the making.

Building Victoria’s resilience: lessons and advice from Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto

Like many places in the world, Victoria has a large focus on resilience building in communities and building the capability and capacity of Victorian emergency management sector and communities to prepare for, withstand, respond to and recover from a range of emergencies.

Victoria's Community Resilience Framework for Emergency Management has been developed with Resilient Melbourne, which is part of the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities project. Mr Lapsley is meeting with the Chief Resilience Officers of Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto to understand the different resilience focus of each city and the long term implementation planning required to work towards the idea of safer and more resilient communities.

It is also an opportunity to test the Victorian Preparedness Framework which was developed in conjunction with Victorian emergency management agencies and organisations and is based on work undertaken by the USA's Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). This is driving Victoria's sector preparedness and capacity and capability building using emergency scenarios. Chicago and Toronto offer the chance to unpick their integrated emergency response and planning approaches.

Mr Lapsley said the chance to meet with Chicago Red Cross and FEMA Region 5 in Chicago also meant an opportunity to discuss their approaches and respective roles in Hurricane Harvey.

"Both are involved in supporting the efforts of their counterparts in response and recovery after Hurricane Harvey and we’ll have the chance to hear about this,” he said.

“Victoria is in the process of testing a new approach to resilient recovery and this is a real opportunity to test our ideas with others.”

Australian deployments and fire recovery in British Columbia

Mr Lapsley said meeting with the British Columbia (BC) fire and emergency management agencies and departments in Victoria, Canada meant the ability to share the lessons gained from the deployment of Australian incident management personnel to the Canadian wildfires.

Victoria sent 26 personnel from Parks Victoria, Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA as part of the Australian multi-state contingent to BC, the last of whom is coming home shortly.

It is also an opportunity to hear how the BC Government is determining and shaping the recovery needs of its impacted communities.

"This is a chance to learn about the challenges faced by the USA and Canadian emergency management sector broadly before, during and after emergencies and how they are preparing for or adapting to changes in climate, the frequency of emergencies, global population changes, and managing the consequences of emergencies in diverse communities,” Mr Lapsley said.

"There are many opportunities to learn from our international partners, and Victoria has benefited from the formal and informal relationships.

“This trip will build upon these relationships and broker news ones. The interest, support and opportunity to share is very significant."