Improving terrorism-related emergency response in Canada

OTTAWA, Aug. 16, 2017 /CNW/ - Terrorism-related emergencies require responses that are complex, quick and dynamic, with many stakeholders involved. They combine various challenges that add layers of complexity and volatility not present in other emergency situations. A new briefing by The Conference Board of Canada provides recommendations for improving the effectiveness of emergency responses to terrorism-related events.

"Emergencies that result from acts of terrorism continue to evolve globally. The attack in Ottawa on October 22, 2014, showed that Canada is not immune to this threat and there are areas, such as communication and effective partnerships, which need implementation. While these types of events have had a limited impact on Canada in the recent past, it is important to learn from them so that Canadian emergency response stakeholders can be better prepared and more resilient should they have to face such an emergency in the future," said Satyamoorthy Kabilan, Director, National Security and Strategic Foresight, The Conference Board of Canada.


  • Terrorism-related emergencies add layers of complexity and volatility not present in other types of emergencies.
  • First responders must be able to plan, implement, and adjust terrorism response strategies on the fly.
  • Six recommendations for improving terrorism-related emergency response include: communication, partnerships, adaptability, victim definition, first responder recognition and identification, and returning to normalcy as soon as possible.

While the scale and scope of emergency responses to natural disasters are substantial, their effects are relatively predictable and can usually be mitigated through adequate preparation. In contrast, terrorism-related emergencies can evolve extremely rapidly. An event may begin with an isolated shooting, evolve into an explosives threat, and then quickly proliferate to multiple, seemingly random locations. In addition, the possibility of intentional targeting of first responders must also be taken into consideration with the site in question being treated as a complex crime scene.

Emergency management professionals must be more adaptable than ever with respect to information sharing and interoperability to effectively react to increasingly novel strategies and well-prepared approaches. The report, Insights on Emergency Response to Terrorism Events, makes six recommendations to improve the effectiveness of emergency responses to acts of terrorism:

  • Communication: Multiple communication platforms—including traditional and new media—must be used to ensure effective emergency communication. Organizations must have the capability to monitor social media to deal with rumours and false information which can hinder response efforts.
  • Partnerships: The use of common language and training among emergency management professionals is crucial to building trusted, effective partnerships before an emergency occurs.
  • Adaptability: Emergency response teams and protocols must be flexible enough to adapt to the new tactics and tools that may be deployed by terrorists.
  • Victim Definition: Consider broadening the definition of victims to include first responders, family and friends of the victim, and even the family, friends, and community of the perpetrator who are often negatively impacted by the event.
  • First responder recognition and identification: Use uniforms that are easily recognizable by the public as the official uniforms of law enforcement or other first responder agencies.
  • Returning to normalcy as soon as possible: Set up response protocols that allow for a timely return to normalcy without sacrificing investigative rigour.

The recommendations in this briefing follow discussions at a joint meeting between The Conference Board of Canada's Centre for National Security and Council on Emergency Management as well as evidence from a literature review.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Natasha Jamieson, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613-286-8474, E-mail:; or Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613-526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail:


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