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York Region leaders, responders prepare for next emergencies

Region hosts conference discussion emergency readiness
York Region community and health services commissioner Katherine Chislett speaks during an emergency management conference Oct. 6.

York Region’s emergency leaders gathered for a conference to learn how to best prepare for the emergencies that could impact the municipality.

The region hosted the event Oct. 6 at the York Region Police Association in Aurora, featuring emergency management leaders from all nine regional municipalities. The conference offered insights into the latest best practices of emergency management, plus innovative projects from other municipalities.

Speakers addressed the need for a wider community readiness. Region community and health services manager Katherine Chislett said governments need the support of other organizations to handle emergencies.

“Government is not going to be riding in a white horse all the time to save you. We have to do this together as a community,” she said.

The conference featured about 160 people, including municipal leaders, York Regional Police, paramedics and the YMCA. The region regularly hosted conferences like this before the pandemic to fulfill training requirements.

Emergency management manager Morris Faccin said it is a way for leaders and emergency partners to connect and establish partnerships.

“It helps us get to know who’s who and exchange business cards in advance of an emergency,” he said. 

Speakers included Vancouver emergency manager Miranda Myles who addressed a 2021 heat wave in Vancouver, and Northern Tornados project executive director Dr. David Sills, among others.

A panel discussion featuring multiple speakers addressed resiliency and how leaders can improve resiliency among residents. 

Myles said that reducing everyday stressors in people’s lives can go a long way to making them more resilient when emergencies happen.

“They can easily absorb that shock in their life if their regular, day-to-day world is not already under significant stress,” she said. “

Engaging the community and students properly in emergency management, with interactive efforts, is also key, York University assistant professor Dr. Evalyna Bogdan said.

“The point is to train community members, students, to be involved in their communities,” she said. “Empower community members, community leaders, and students to do the reach out, so that snowballs out.” 

The pandemic has brought about some change in emergency management. Region emergency management program manager Sophia Craig-Massey said it highlighted the need for partnerships.

“Governments can’t be the only provider of emergency services,” she said. “Really relies on community groups and (non-government organizations) and the whole community to come together.”

The pandemic also brings to light the importance of emergency preparedness, Craig-Massey said.

“As an emergency manager, you’re often that person nobody really wanted to talk to. They don’t think there’s ever going to be an emergency. But during COVID, I think it really brought home to people that actually these things, emergencies, can affect us, and we do need to be more aware and prepared.” 

Residents can access the region’s emergency preparedness guide at