A group of municipal emergency coordinators (MECs) from across Manitoba, and one from Iqaluit, gathered in Altona this week to top off their training. The class included Altona/Rhineland MEC, Perry Batchelor, and assistant MEC, Barry Friesen.

The group learned all about designing emergency exercises, which they are required to run, under legislation, for their community. It was the 8th and final module in a training program brought in by the Manitoba Association of Municipal Emergency Coordinators.

"The participants that are here today have gone through seven other modules," explained Shelley Napier, executive director for the organization. "Two years ago, we were told by our membership at the Manitoba Association of Municipal Emergency Coordinators that they wanted a training program that would help them do their job as an emergency coordinator, that would be relevant, that would be best practices across Canada. We listened to them, and we promised that within two years we would put together eight modules and they would graduate from the program, and we have delivered on that promise."

Napier noted, it's important to equip our municipalities to properly respond in emergencies, adding they are seeing more a need for additional training. She cited the changing weather patterns we are experiencing. 

"Take a look at what we're going through, and we know that climate change is upon us," she said. "We know that global warming and climate change are having an impact. We're facing more severe storms. We're facing droughts, we're facing floods. The tornado activity that's going on in the States, for example, take a look at that. It's really significant. We're seeing violent storms. So, the municipalities are the first line of defense. They're the ones that have to respond. In Manitoba, it's a bottom-driven system with municipalities responding and when they run out of resources, they contact the provincial government and so on. So, it's really critical that they have plans and programs that work, and that the elected officials understand their responsibilities."

The class from this week's training program will graduate from the module in September.The class from this week's training program will graduate from the module in September.

The 8-module training program was developed by Dr. Patricia Martel. She boasts over 17 years of experience in the emergency management field and currently serves as the Manager of Emergency Management and Community Emergency Management Coordinator for Niagara Region.

"If we're going to offer training and education to those on the ground in municipalities in Manitoba, they are going to get the very best that Canada has to offer," said Napier. "So, rather than just sit around and discuss what is it we need, we contracted the experts. Patricia has a network that reaches across Canada. She is just the best at what she does. So, we have left it in her capable hands to put together the programs and I can't say enough about the excellent quality she has produced for our municipalities."

Dr. Martel also presented the module at this week's training session, and said it was impressive to see the enthusiasm of Manitoba's municipal emergency coordinators.

"They have a passion for keeping Manitobans safe. It is truly admirable."

She explained why organizing training exercises is an important part of a MEC's job.

"We build plans and procedures to ensure that we're prepared to respond when an emergency happens. However, emergencies are uncommon events. We do exercises to ensure that we can test and validate our plans and procedures before an emergency occurs, because if there are any gaps, it's important to identify those before the emergency."

The class from this week's training program will graduate from the module in September.