18 March 2006


Premier Danny Williams announced on Friday that the province will be spending about $5.0 million next fiscal year to improve the province's ability to respond to emergencies.

Aside from the new bodies in health and wildlife, there will be three new people hired in the province's emergency measures organization, including a new fire protection officer, a new financial assistance co-ordinator and a new emergency management officer.

A new deputy minister position was also created some time ago specifically responsible for emergency response planning.

All this is very good news, especially in light of the Titan missile fiasco last year or the September 11 thing. The provincial government's inability to process intelligence and respond appropriately was painfully obvious in both incidents. The technical term for the situation on those occasions was TARFU.

Let's see how things improve.

Two things to note, however:

1. There is no sign the provincial government has created an ability to assess information coming to it and make appropriate decisions. Information co-ordination - i.e. intelligence gathering and analysis - is a key element of the emergency response puzzle.

Otherwise, as in the Titan fiasco, we wind up with GIGO: garbage in, garbage out, which inevitably leads back to TARFU.

Or, as in the 9/11 thing we wind up watching people pull things out of the nearest available bodily orifice.

The technical term for this is SNAFU, which is not what you want by any means, either.

2. There is no communications/public information/public relations position anywhere in the mix. If we have learned anything in emergency response in North America over the past decade, it would be that emergency communications is a crucial element in the overall success of the mission.

Unless this gets fixed sooner rather than later, the whole emergency response will be FUBAR no matter how many public health nurses there are, doses of bird flu vaccine sitting in storage or how many new financial assistance co-ordinators are busily co-ordinating financial assistance for the new emergency management officer and the new fire protection officer.

There needs to be a dedicated emergency communications co-ordinator, with staff and the appropriate resources to help get everyother jurisdiction in the province sorted out.

Psst. there's federal money available to help pay for this, by the way.