Winter 2014

Conducted Energy Weapons Strategic Initiative

By Vesna Knezevic

Police use of conducted energy weapons (CEWs), more commonly known as Tasers, is of significant interest to Canadians. CEWs were introduced to Canada in 1998--by May 2013, there were 9,174 devices in police inventories nationwide.

As a less lethal alternative to sidearms, CEWs are a valuable option for police officers to reduce the risk of injury or death. The devices use electrical energy to temporarily incapacitate a subject so that police can take control of a situation.

Several high-profile incidents involving CEWs have resulted in questions regarding the appropriateness of their use. To keep Canadians safe and to maintain public confidence, all levels of government and law enforcement recognized the need for more independent and evidence-based information on their testing and use.

A Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Working Group was created in 2007 to facilitate information sharing on CEW policies and practices. In 2010, the Working Group developed national guidelines for CEW use, which set out recommendations for testing, reporting on use, and the supervision and training of officers.

At the time, policy makers also noted a need for more research on how the technical performance of CEWs was tested, the health effects of their use, and how other less lethal weapons should be evaluated and approved in the future. This research was approved by FPT Ministers for Justice and Public Safety in October 2010. Shortly thereafter, Public Safety Canada and Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) collaborated on the Conducted Energy Weapons Strategic Initiative (CEWSI) to implement this work. The three-year project resulted in the following outcomes:

An approval process framework for emerging less-lethal technologies in Canada. This document (December 2012) recommended an approval process that engaged civilian stakeholders and subject matter experts to obtain independent advice on the safety of the public and law enforcement officers.

A report on current knowledge about the health effects of CEWs.
http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/cew.aspx

The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Council of Canadian Academies convened a panel of independent medical experts from Canada and abroad to review literature related to physiological effects of CEW use. In October 2013, the panel completed its report on the current state of research, gaps in knowledge, and ways to address those gaps. The work of the panel was particularly helpful in addressing some of the misconceptions about the health effects of CEWs.

A comprehensive CEW test protocol that provides a consistent methodology for assessing the technical performance of CEWs. A DRDC CSS report (December 2013) recommends relevant parameters to be tested, specifications for test equipment, lab qualifications, and standardization of reporting to support comparative analysis of test results.

The research collaboration between Public Safety Canada and Defence Research and Development Canada has made a significant contribution to advancing evidence-based knowledge about CEWs. Officials are examining the findings to determine how they can further inform existing CEW policies and future research.

A complete list of reports generated under the CEWSI can be found under the “Publications” section of this newsletter. For further information contact Vesna Knezevic. Vesna.Knezevic@ps-sp.gc.ca

Vesna Knezevic is a Manager with the Firearms and Operational Policing Policy Division at Public Safety Canada and was the Project Director for the Conducted Energy Weapons Strategic Initiative.

 

Federal Operations Centres: Information Sharing Taken to the Next Level

by Chantal Bertrand

Federal departments and agencies typically have distinct mandates, internal policies, and procedures, but many have overlapping roles and responsibilities to fulfill when it comes to Emergency Management (EM). Situational awareness is a key element in EM. Therefore, having instant access to information about ongoing or emerging incidents not only improves coordination efforts and decision making, but also enhances preparedness and response.

Federal departments with EM roles and responsibilities either have an emergency operations centre or on-duty personnel that monitor, validate, report or respond to incidents on a regular basis. Information sharing in this context often poses challenges due to department-specific technologies and systems.

In May 2010, members of the Federal Operations Centres Working Group expressed their interest in developing an operational capability to facilitate the sharing of EM incident information between federal partners. The Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) joined forces with the Public Safety Canada – Government Operations Centre to lead an initiative for the development of an internal EM portal to replace legacy systems. Interest surrounding this initiative grew, and a number of departments collaborated to create a federal capability ready for testing.

Fast forward three years later and the portal is now fully validated and operational. Initially, the interest in using this tool was limited to only a few key federal departments. This has since blossomed to an impressive membership of 21 federal departments and agencies, with more projected to join in the 2014–2015 fiscal year.

What is it?

The portal is a SharePoint-based application that enables users to track ongoing events, disseminate information, issue notifications, and log actions taken during an incident or event of interest. It is a sophisticated one-stop shop for information sharing between federal operations centres that includes an integrated messenger and chat tool, a request for information tracker, and a geospatial tool that is connected to the Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS), just to name a few of its numerous capabilities. MASAS enables the sharing of location-based situational awareness information and alerts between emergency management and response agencies using open standards and an open architecture.

In addition, information sharing can be customized throughout the portal to include as many (or as few) stakeholders as required, all with a few clicks of the mouse. Future iterations of the portal will seek to improve on its current capabilities and potentially expand its footprint to include federal regional stakeholders.

A common system facilitating a highly coordinated federal response!

Chantal Bertrand is a Senior Watch Officer with Public Safety Canada.

 

Implementing HAZUS in Canada: Estimating Potential Impacts of Natural Hazards

by Miroslav Nastev and Alain Goudreau

In 2009, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) began collaborating on the Quantitative Risk Assessment Project, which was funded jointly by the precursor to the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) and NRCan’s Geological Survey of Canada’s Public Safety Geoscience Program. The objective of this col­laboration was to develop and adapt standardized tools, protocols, and guidelines for quantitative risk assessment of natural hazards and to promote their use in Canada. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) method for assessing physical vulnerabilities, socio-economic security, and public safety with respect to natural hazards, known as “Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazards” (HAZUS-MH), has been adopted as a best practice (www.fema.gov/hazus).

In August 2011, NRCan and DRDC CSS signed an agreement with FEMA to collaborate on adaptation and co-development of a standardized North American version of HAZUS-MH. As a standardized methodology for assessing potential losses from three types of hazards (floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes), HAZUS-MH combines science, engineering, and mathematical modeling with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to estimate physical damage, as well as economic and social losses. HAZUS-MH has robust mapping capabilities and the ability to depict the outputs in both tabular and visual forms. These distinct features facilitate communication and interaction between modelers and planners during the mitigation planning process. Although originally developed for use in the US, the track record of HAZUS-MH and available resources related to its use offer many advantages as a tool for quantifying risks from natural hazards in Canada. To date, initial focus in adapting HAZUS-MH has been on the earthquake and flood models, which are now operational in Canada.

HAZUS-MH consists of modules for each of the three available natural hazards:

  • Analysis begins with the definition of the hazard scenario (e.g., ground shaking intensity, ground displacements, flood depth, etc.).
  • The second layer of information is an inventory of the assets exposed to the identified hazard (built environment and population).
  • Central to the vulnerability modeling is the concept of damage functions defined as plots representing the intensity of the natural hazard versus modeled building damage states or percentages. These are combined with cost estimation techniques for building repair and replacement, and costs associated with loss of use.

Two promotional tools were developed to foster and support a growing network of more than 100 practitioners engaged in risk assessment and emergency planning: the Canadian HAZUS-MH Users Group (CanHUG) and the HAZUS-MH web-portal (http://HAZUScanada.ca). Monthly CanHUG conference calls create opportunities to learn about HAZUS-MH and its use, and share HAZUS-MH stories and best practices. CanHUG encourages Canadian users to use local exposure data and enhance the accuracy of loss estimation. The HAZUS-MH Canada software, user and technical manuals, case study reports, and other useful information can be downloaded from the web portal. Currently, there are about 15 ongoing or completed HAZUS-MH studies in Canada. HAZUS-MH outputs have been used to enhance emergency management exercises at various levels and locations across the country. Looking forward, a number of projects and studies related to flood risk assessment will be led by the provinces of New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Québec. Results and insights from these projects will be shared as they become available. As for the long-term sustainment of the HAZUS-MH Canada capability, viability and options are being discussed.

Miroslav Nastev is a Project Manager with the Geological Survey of Canada. Alain Goudreau is Section Head, Risk Assessment and Capability Integration at DRDC CSS.

 

EnRiCH: Enhancing Resilience and Capacity for Health

By Tracey O'Sullivan

Awareness and Relationships are two words best suited to describe the key mechanisms that contributed to enhanced resilience and preparedness among high-risk populations in the EnRiCH Project. When opportunities are created to engage community stakeholders in discussions around community resilience, this leads to more awareness and connectivity between organizations that provide support for high-risk populations.

This connectivity was central to the success of the EnRiCH Project. In the words of one participant early in the project, "I think the most important thing from this is the fact that multiple organizations came together and started a conversation."

The EnRiCH Project (http://www.enrichproject.ca) was funded between 2009-2013 through the former CBRNE Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI). It used a community-based participatory approach, working with five communities in Canada to pilot an asset-mapping intervention designed to promote awareness and collaboration among community organizations that support people with functional limitations. The Public Health Agency of Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada were the project's two federal partners.

The EnRiCH communities included the following municipalities:

  • Truro, Nova Scotia
  • Region of Waterloo, Ontario
  • Ville de Gatineau, Québec
  • Ville de Québec, Québec
  • Calgary, Alberta

Through a series of consultations oriented around mapping the assets in each community, participants became aware of key resources that could be used in disaster response, and they developed relationships with people from other sectors -- notably, organizations not typically involved in disaster preparedness planning activities. The diversity in the participant mix was an important aspect of helping people understand what was available within the community and the particular needs of high-risk populations.

Local leadership within the EnRiCH communities (established through partnerships with the Canadian Red Cross and/or municipal government departments for each community) was essential to champion this collaborative exercise. Each group tailored the asset-mapping exercise to the needs, preferences, and context of their specific geographic community. This flexibility at the local level was critical to staying true to the participatory approach and plan for sustainability beyond the pilot project.

The intervention manual for EnRiCH and several webinars were published online as part of a community toolkit that can be used by other communities to enhance preparedness. Interest in the project has proliferated during the past few years as the community and academic partners share lessons learned and continue to promote engagement and collaboration to foster awareness about disaster preparedness.

One of many positive outcomes from the project included a regional grant awarded to one community to hire an EnRiCH coordinator to continue the activities initiated during the project. This demonstrated the tremendous commitment of local partners that was vital to the success of the initiative in that community.

EnRiCH was recently nominated for an award with the Canadian Red Cross as a promising program promoting citizen engagement and sustainable leadership. The results will be announced in 2014.

Tracey O'Sullivan is an Associate Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, at the University of Ottawa. Tracey is the lead scientist for The EnRiCH Project. Her research program focuses on support mechanisms to promote health and resilience in conditions of high personal, occupational, and community stress, with particular emphasis on building capacity for emergency management through community engagement, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and strengthening of critical social infrastructure.

 

Self-Care Decontamination: Psychosocial Support

By Laurie Pearce, Ph.D

You are a first responder. You arrive at the scene where there is a crowd of scared, hurting, and anxious people who have been contaminated by a toxic chemical. It is 10°C outside. What should you do? Typically, you would make sure you are safe and you would tell people to move out of the contamination zone and wait for a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Team to arrive and start the decontamination process.

However, research has shown that, in many cases, it takes a long time for HazMat Teams to arrive and by the time they are set up, many casualties have left the area and have gone to hospitals. Thus, additional persons and places can become contaminated and hospitals go into lock-down, putting others at risk. Casualties, especially children, faced with the "Darth Vader" appearance of HazMat Teams, have reported nightmares, anxiety, and extended trauma as a result of their encounters with HazMat Teams.

The Simulation, Training, and Exercise Collaboratory (SIMTEC) (http://simtec.jibc.ca/).is a four-year research project undertaken by the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) in collaboration with Royal Roads University and championed by Health Canada, funded by the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP). Originally, SIMTEC researchers were exploring ways to reduce the psychosocial stressors associated with decontamination; however, the project evolved into something much more comprehensive and exciting

As part of this four-year research project, a simulated functional table-top exercise "Exercise Green Cloud," was successfully held on October 1, 2013. The exercise tested the ability of responders in Hospital and Community-based Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) and an Incident Command Post. It also tested the ability of Health Canada's EOC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's International Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) to implement Self-Care Decontamination Protocols during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) event. This exercise was the culmination of months of research, exercise development, and testing by the SIMTEC research team and JIBC support staff.

Researchers noted that there was a real gap in bridging the time between when casualties first needed to be decontaminated and the arrival of HazMat Teams. Accordingly, working with an Expert Working Group of first responders, psychosocial professionals, the BC Coalition for People with Disabilities, and the North Shore Emergency Management Office, a Self-Care Decontamination Protocol was developed. This protocol could be carried out by any trained first responder and would enable casualties to remove most of the contaminants prior to the arrival of HazMat Teams, who could then complete the technical decontamination or showering process.

Researchers also developed messaging and protocols to accommodate at-risk populations, including pregnant women, children, infants, persons who are blind, persons with anxiety disorders, persons in wheelchairs, and many others. Self-care decontamination kits were developed with the help of First Aid Survival Technologies (F.A.S.T.) and used to support the cleaning and disrobing process as well as the post-showering process. Additionally, a prototype "Decon Doll" or action figure was created to help prepare children for the arrival of the HazMat Team members -- they could undress the doll prior to the arrival of the Team and recognize that a person was under the personal protective equipment (PPE) and HazMat suits, thus reducing anxiety and fear.

All of this was tested in a cold weather self-care decontamination drill held in North Vancouver in March 2013 with over 35 participants and a number of first response organizations. It was a major success, and using the results of interviews and focus groups with responders and participants, the protocols and kits were further refined, tested in August 2013 in White Rock, and presented at Exercise Green Cloud.

On January 13-14 2014, HazMat Experts locally, nationally, and internationally were brought together for a two-day workshop to review, critique, and help SIMTEC researchers further refine the protocols used by first responders. The workshop was a major success and a terrific opportunity to learn from each other. The knowledge and experience shared by experts from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom provided great insights to improve our protocols and the Research team will be compiling notes and recommendations from the workshop to simplify the directions and further increase the affected populations' ability to carry out the self-care decontamination kits' required steps. On our side, we made our work done with at-risk populations and our findings available to others - all of which will enhance decontamination outcomes for everyone. We anticipate having the changes completed and all of the materials on Exercise Green Cloud available on the SIMTEC website by March 31, 2014.

Laurie Pearce, Ph.D is a Research Chair at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
lpearce@jibc.ca

 

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