Communications coordination with federal government institutions

We initiated meetings with several federal institutions to operationalize with their communications experts the Fund’s activation management protocols. We quickly noticed the need to bring all these key contacts together. As a result, we held our first tabletop exercise with emergency communications experts within federal government institutions. The exercise included:

  • Transport Canada (TC)
  • Public Safety Canada (PS)
  • Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)

We reached our goal to better understand Canada’s emergency management system, including each other’s areas of responsibility (see the box below). We were able to ask questions, validate communications plans and procedures, and troubleshoot problem areas.

Next steps with respect to communications preparedness include:

  • Preparing material ready to be published and share it with the network.
  • Collaborating with the provinces and local governments.
  • Planning a communication exercise with railway companies.
  • Bringing awareness about the Fund to additional federal institutions, such as:
    • Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat
    • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
    • Privy Council Office (PCO)
Here is the summary of the federal institutions’ roles in communications following all railway accidents:

  • TC will be the lead department for issues related to a railway accident.
  • PS coordinates the whole-of-government communications response to emergencies and events of national interest. They also:
    • maintain a list of key emergency communications contacts;
    • convene federal emergency communication calls with their partners;
    • compile media lines and Q&As from all federal partners that support their portion of the response;
    • create a one-stop-shop information webpage about the federal resources available to the public.
  • ECCC will be activated upon request. They can conduct sampling and create oil spill trajectory models or advise responders about hazards.
  • ISC would support First Nations in their emergency management and recovery.

The exercise reaffirmed the need to:

  • develop clear, accessible, and coordinated messaging before an accident happens;
  • expand our network further than the federal sphere:
    • most emergencies in Canada are local in nature and are managed by municipalities and communities, or at the provincial or territorial level.

While we found several gaps during the exercise, we received a commitment from the participants to build a formal community of practice and to meet periodically.