As Ontario prepares to enter the second Provincial Emergency amid stay-at-home orders, many folks could use some positivity. Here are some lighthearted and fun projects that municipalities across Canada are undertaking to bring a smile to peoples’ faces.
City of Waterloo
The City of Waterloo, Ontario has launched The Community Happiness Project. The Community Happiness Project aims to connect community members by sharing messages of hope, positivity, welcoming, and connectivity from community members and hopefully you!
From January to mid-February, residents can submit audio messages and images through an online portal. These will be assembled into signage that will be posted throughout the city and can be accessed through QR codes on mobile devices. Audio messages collected from the community will reflect Waterloo’s caring spirit and can include stories, poems, and notes to combat the feelings of isolation that have grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Town of Blackfalds
The Town of Blackfalds, Alberta is continuing the Lunch Box Pandemic Response Program into 2021. The Blackfalds Food Bank has now settled into their new home in the old Community Services Department Shop, at 5014 Waghorn Street, there is plenty of room to accommodate donations to support the Blackfalds Food Bank needs and the Lunch Box program.
The Lunch Box Program started in March 2020 due to the pandemic and increased local families’ needs to provide food for their children. Initiated to provide school-aged children with healthy lunches and snacks for school, the program quickly changed when schools shut down and were then expanded to include any local family with children, of any age. This pandemic response program fed 3,877 children in 1,061 families from March through December of 2020.
City of Barrie
The City of Barrie, Ontario is running a fun, new contest to name the snowplows. Barrie has 12 snowplows that need names and is asking residents to come up with some creative and unique ideas.
Between now and January 22, 2021, Barrie residents are invited to submit their idea for a snowplow name for your chance to win a City of Barrie prize pack. The winning names will also be featured on the City’s Plow Tracker app and will be added to the snowplow machines for the 2021-22 winter season.
We love seeing municipalities coming together to enrich the lives of their citizens! We also love connecting municipalities with the businesses that provide the municipal goods and services that they need. Learn more at www.muniSERV.ca and join today.
If our current situation due to COVID-19 has had any positive impact, it is that municipalities who have been hesitant to adopt technology are now realizing just how vital it is. In the past, many municipal employees were unable to work from home due to technology limitations and concerns about the protection of confidential information. Let’s take a look at how some municipalities are adapting to the “new normal”.
WASAGA BEACH, ONTARIO
While other municipalities have set up a system allowing many staff to work from home instead of reporting to town offices, in the case of Wasaga Beach, the risk of an information breach has prevented them from allowing staff to work off-site.
“We had a cyber-attack almost three years ago that has made us wary of the security of confidential information being transmitted over the Internet from off-site locations,” said Communications Officer Michael Gennings.
“We have implemented many of the measures that other municipalities have, including work shifts to increase physical distancing. Should the pandemic situation change, the municipality will consider its options at that time.”
“Staff that must stay home are required to use vacation time or explore a leave. The bulk of our workforce remains onsite. Some have taken leaves.”
Wasaga Beach council is meeting via video conference for regular meetings, and in council chambers for closed session meetings.
MEDICINE HAT, ALBERTA
The City of Medicine Hat has laid off 170 workers – about 15% of its workforce – and has deferred filling many summer positions as it wrestles with closures and budget stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Hall is attempting to conduct as much business as possible, but with less physical interaction and higher safety standards. “The City of Medicine Hat has taken the approach that it’s business as usual during an unusual time,” said Dennis Egert, the city’s corporate services commissioner, pointing to online, teleconferencing, or directing resident queries via email rather than in-person meetings.
Despite the roadblocks presented by COVID-19, Nova Scotia’s municipal elections will go forward as scheduled. Electors from all 49 provincial municipalities will go to the polls on October 17 in accordance with the Municipal Elections Act stipulation that elections be held every four years on the third Saturday in October.
Chuck Porter, Minister of the province’s municipal affairs department, told reporters “At this point, we see no reason why municipal elections can’t move forward. We’re all adapting to do business differently these days and certainly we will work with (municipalities) to offer support where we can.
“We’ve done things in the past like electronic voting, by-phone voting in some circumstances. So I think there are a number of options that are out there for us to be able to vote this coming fall.”
How is your municipality dealing with social distancing, council meetings, and more? We would love to hear from you! Drop us a line and let us know how you are doing … [email protected]
Every municipality needs an Emergency Management Program.
There are a number of components that make up a comprehensive emergency management program, (i.e. Emergency Response Plan, Business Continuity Plan, Communications Plan, Employee & Family Support Plan, Pandemic Plan, etc.).
When I was with the Office of the Fire Marshal I was responsible for emergency management and the development of these plans for the OFM. And now in these times of global uncertainty, I am once again reminded of just how important it is for organizations to have them – and particularly a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place.
What is a BCP?
A BCP is a plan that outlines the critical services to be delivered during a disruptive event and how full operations are going to be resumed after the event.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is, your BCP needs to address planning/mitigation, response, recovery and restoration.
Generally, a Business Continuity Plan outlines:
Who is responsible for recovery actions
What is needed to deliver, resume, continue, or restore the municipality’s services
Where to go to resume operations if necessary, and,
How the municipality’s critical services and operations will continue to be provided during a disruptive event (detailed procedures for provision, recovery, resumption and restoration of services)
Basic Elements of a BCP
It is important to remember that while the unique characteristics of your municipality must be reflected in the plan, the basic elements detailed below represent the foundation on which every BCP should be built.
Gather the necessary Baseline Information – This is used to identify municipal services, where the service is located, who uses the service, dependencies, alternate service delivery, critical infrastructure, etc.
Conduct a Business Services Risk Assessment – Needed to help identify areas of potential vulnerabilities and to examine current and necessary control measures to mitigate threats.
Undertake a Business Impact Analysis – Gathers information concerning the exposure and impact on the service should the service experience significant disruptions and assesses the potential financial and non-financial impacts of a disruptive event.
Develop a Business Continuity Recovery Strategy – Assesses the advantages and disadvantages, estimated associated costs and determines the recommended strategy for each critical service and the resources that may be necessary for quick recovery.
Identify Emergency Response and Operational Protocols & Procedures – This is a checklist of protocols and procedures that help to simplify the necessary activities even further (i.e. notification protocols, call trees, etc.).
Create the Business Continuity Plan
Of course, once it’s completed don’t let your BCP collect dust. Keep it dynamic by updating it to reflect any changes to personnel or processes, and practice it with your team so when a disruptive event occurs, like we’re experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic, your organization will be ready and well prepared to resume operations.
If you’d like to receive a free Business Continuity Plan template to help you get started or information on any of the other emergency management plans mentioned, please feel free to contact me. Susan Shannon at s[email protected]