Emergency Management Standards

The profession of emergency management is a recent development. Similarly, emergency management program standards are also relatively new.

In the winter of 2006, I conducted an assessment of published and available emergency management and business continuity program standards for the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in order to prepare its staff for an ISO conference on developing an international emergency management standard. There were about a half dozen standards around the world at the time worth examining. In general terms, all were far from either being complete or representing the entire scope of emergency management. In fact, most were business continuity standards that had been adjusted in an “ad hoc” manner to include emergency management. This reinforced my previous experience, acquired as the deputy head of the Ontario emergency management organization in the 2003-2004 timeframe, when I looked high and wide for an appropriate standard. At that time, we determined that the best of the lot was the U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600 Standard on Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs. It also seemed beneficial, from a North American perspective to try and integrate our proposed standard with that of the United States.

However, we felt that the NFPA 1600 was lacking in many ways. So, we set out to become part of the NFPA 1600 Technical Committee to influence the development of the next standard to be produced. Previously, only two Canadians had been on the NFPA Technical Committee. We were able to increase the Canadian representation to four (out of 30) representing the private sector and the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

At the time, we involved the Canadian Standards Association in our work, since they were preparing to revise their emergency preparedness and response standard. CSA became the “driver” to integrate the Canadian and American standards and worked closely with the NFPA to that end. What initially seemed an impediment was the “cycle” of amendment. The deliberations to amend the current version of NFPA 1600, which occurs every five years, was deemed out of sync with CSA and Canadian needs.

Nonetheless, work continued. The revised version of the NFPA standard has been published, while our Canadian version is now in final draft. In fact, this proved a blessing in disguise, since it gave CSA the opportunity to improve on the layout and context in many areas.

It is fair to say, however, that both standards are now “harmonized.” This is a very significant step and, in my opinion, the CSA standard is an improved version of NFPA 1600 without sacrificing any of the detail. Congratulations are in order for all members of the CSA Technical Committee for their commitment and integrity in this task.

Developing the New Canadian Standard
Public Safety Canada and the Canadian Standards Association worked closely together to create the new voluntary Canadian National Standard for Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, Z1600-08.

The goal of the project was to develop a high level standard that integrated emergency management and business continuity programs. This is consistent with international trends and has provided a much-needed opportunity and reason for collaboration among diverse stakeholders in both the public and private sectors in Canada.

To achieve this goal, CSA was able to reach an agreement with NFPA to use the NFPA 1600 Standard, Disaster/ Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, as a base document for the development of this Canadian standard.

The NFPA Standard is a high level comprehensive framework that integrates emergency management and business continuity, provides a common language, and incorporates a risk-based all hazards approach similar to the needs of the current Canadian emergency management practice.

The Canadian Standard
The new Canadian Standard, Z1600-08, will provide guidance for organizations in the public and private sectors to properly develop, implement and maintain risk-based all hazards and comprehensive ­(prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery) emergency management and business continuity programs.

As a significant added benefit, it will ensure a continentally harmonized approach that will serve Canadians well in the North American context.

The development of Z1600-08 represents a very significant milestone in the evolution of the emergency management profession in Canada and the integration of North American standards. Users can feel confident that the standard is both user-friendly and current with modern emergency management trends. It tells professionals “what” must be done without being prescriptive in nature. Although one might not agree 100% with every item, it has covered the field better than ever before. A process also exists to provide comments and stimulate further discussion for the next edition based on practical experience in the application of this edition.  

Doug Harrison was a member of Emergency Management Ontario for 15 years and retired as the Deputy Chief (Acting Chief) in 2005. He is now President of Georgian Emergency Management & Associates. For information on CSA’s Emergency Management program, contact Ron Meyers at 416-747-2496 or at ron.meyers@csa.ca
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