Being prepared for an emergency is critical to mounting a quick and effective response that will help minimize impacts on the health of people, and the environment.
Environment Canada works in partnership with other levels of government, industry and communities to:
- Identify potential risks and sensitive resource environments;
- Develop contingency plans that outline how to deal with emergencies;
- Train personnel to apply the plans; and
- Review and exercise these plans to strengthen their effectiveness and ensure continuous improvement.
In identifying potential risks, it is important to know about the environment where a spill might occur. Environment Canada prepares sensitivity maps with up-to-date information on environmentally sensitive areas, and on seasonal considerations affecting key physical, biological and cultural resources. The Department works in partnership with other federal and provincial resource agencies, the oil industry and international agencies involved in similar efforts.
Under the Emergency Management Act 2007, all federal ministers have statutory responsibility to ensure that each federal department, agency or Crown Corporation has an emergency preparedness plan to deal with civil emergencies related to the Ministers' area of accountability.
Environment Canada's National Environmental Emergencies Contingency Plan (NEECP), identifies a variety of environmental hazards and defines the scope and framework within which Environment Canada operates to ensure appropriate response to any environmental hazard or emergency.
It also describes the actions the Department takes when environmental emergencies occur and contains information on the measures Environment Canada implements in a variety of emergencies with adverse environmental impacts. The document includes details on the national emergency reporting network and the procedural safety guidelines for department staff while dealing with environmental emergencies.
Environment Canada is also party to numerous bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements with the federal departments as well as with the United States and other countries to provide mutual aid and assistance, if required:
- Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan
- Federal Emergency Response Plan
- Canada-United States Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan
- Canada-United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan
Training is crucial to the success of any emergency preparedness plan. It ensures that staff involved in prevention, preparedness and response and recovery work have the skills to perform tasks safely and effectively. Training also helps team members from various organizations and levels of government learn how to work well together. At the regional level, where environmental emergencies officers can face significant hazards in the course of their work, training is particularly important.
Environment Canada's training program is aimed primarily at its staff, but some is also provided externally.
Regular, well-planned exercises are the most effective and efficient way of achieving a significant and measurable improvement in an organization's emergency response capability and preparedness level.
Regular exercises allow response personnel to meet and work together while practicing and improving their individual and collective response skills, techniques and capabilities. Engaging in regular exercises also helps validate or prove the operational effectiveness of emergency response planning, facilities, equipment and procedures. Following an exercise, players can better identify 'gaps' or deficiencies in overall response management procedures, and take the necessary corrective measures.
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