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Metchosin benefits from student work

March 5, 2013
MADEM class

When Metchosin Fire Department Chief Stephanie Dunlop was approached to work with a group of MA in Disaster and Emergency Management (MADEM) students last year, she jumped at the opportunity. Having previously worked with a team from the program, she knew how beneficial it could be to her community.

“You just have to be open to learning from the students,” says Dunlop, who is also the district’s emergency program co-ordinator. “They come from all walks of life and they’ve got stuff to teach me. It’s very enjoyable and educating for me. It’s a bonus for our community.”

MADEM program head Robin Cox says it’s a win-win for the community and the students, who are all practitioners with experience in the field of disaster and emergency management and come from various areas, including business, health and response. “It’s like free consulting,” Cox says. “We’ve got a lot of students who bring in enormous competencies.”

Last year, the group of 14 students assisted Metchosin in assessing it degree of disaster resilience for the MADEM capstone project. In 2010, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR) embarked on a campaign to enlist as many communities as possible to pledge to become disaster resilient as part of it Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready Campaign. The UN ISDR developed a checklist of 10 essentials for making cities resilient, and the students’ project involved assisting Metchosin in assessing its progress on achieving each of these 10 essentials and developing a comprehensive plan to become a UN ISDR-designated “Role Model City.”

Student Aaron Beardmore, a visitor safety programs specialist with Parks Canada and vice-president of the Canadian Avalanche Association, says the project was challenging with tight timelines and a heavy workload, but it was equally rewarding.  

“The value of the capstone scenario is being able to go out into the real world and apply some of the knowledge and skills that you’ve built while attending Royal Roads to make a difference in a community,” Beardmore says. “There’s great value in that and there aren’t many opportunities like it. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.”

The students were impressed with how much Metchosin was doing for a small community. They filled out the UN ISDR application and Dunlop recently finalized and submitted it. Dunlop says she wouldn’t have known about the UN ISDR if it wasn’t for Royal Roads and was pleased to go through the process of examining areas where Metchosin excelled and where it need to do more work.

Stephanie Dunlop“Once we received the students’ report back, we realized we’re more resilient than we thought,” Dunlop says. “Being a small community, we rely very heavily on each other and our own resources and I think working with the students brought to light a lot of things. It gave us more creative thought and helped us think outside the box.”

Beardmore says it’s encouraging to hear that his team’s ideas were valuable to Metchosin. “It occurred to me and the whole team working with Metchosin that they were a very progressive, very open minded and forward thinking community and that made them very receptive to some of the ideas,” he says. “It was refreshing to work with a community like that.”

Dunlop says if Metchosin succeeds in being named a Role Model City, it could help them get more grants to expand programs and services. Cox adds that such an accomplishment can help get community members thinking about emergency preparedness and can motivate nearby communities to see how they measure up.

Dunlop recommends working with RRU students and participating in the Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready Campaign. Updates to Metchosin’s emergency program since the students’ project include additions to the advanced notification system, creation of a large animal evacuation plan and enhancements to a public education campaign.

“2012 was a fantastic year for growth within our emergency program,” Dunlop says, “much to the credit of the students.”