Threats and risks to Canadians and Canada are becoming increasingly complex due to the diversity of natural hazards affecting our country and the growth of transnational threats arising from the consequences of terrorism, globalized disease outbreaks, climate change, critical infrastructure interdependencies and cyber attacks. A key function of the Government of Canada is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. Effective EM results from a coordinated approach and a more uniform structure across federal government institutions.
A SEMP establishes a federal government institution's objectives, approach and structure for protecting Canadians and Canada from threats and hazards in their areas of responsibility and sets out how the institution will assist the coordinated federal emergency response. The development and employment of a SEMP is an important complement to such existing plans, because it promotes an integrated and coordinated approach to emergency management planning within federal institutions and across the federal government. Federal government institutions in the early stages of developing a SEMP may find it useful to read the material in Sections One and Two, while other institutions with more established plans may wish to proceed directly to Section Three. Supporting templates and tools can contribute to effective emergency management planning and are provided with this Guide. The Emergency Management Planning Guide uses a step-by-step approach and provides instructions that are supplemented by the Blueprint and the Strategic Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) template provided in Annexes A and B, respectively. The Emergency Management Planning Unit, Public Safety Canada, is responsible for producing, revising and updating this Guide. The purpose of this Guide is to assist federal officials, managers and coordinators responsible for emergency management (EM) planning.
The SEMP is the overarching plan that provides a comprehensive and coordinated approach to EM activities.
Given this variety of EM planning documents, the distinctions between them are summarized in the following table. A SEMP establishes a federal government institution's objectives, approach and structure for protecting Canadians and Canada from threats and hazards in their areas of responsibility, and sets out how the institution will assist the coordinated federal emergency response. It outlines the processes and mechanisms to facilitate an integrated Government of Canada response to an emergency and to eliminate the need for departments to coordinate a wider Government of Canada response. Operational plans may be based on all four pillars of EM planning, or focus on the specific activities of a single pillar. The National Strategy and Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure establishes a public-private sector approach to managing risks, responding effectively to disruptions, and recovering swiftly when incidents occur. Implementation of the Strategy will feature targeted and accurate information products, such as security briefings for each critical infrastructure sector. Emergency management (EM) refers to the management of emergencies concerning all hazards, including all activities and risk management measures related to prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
The Emergency Management Continuum is depicted in a wheel diagram where all four risk-based functions of emergency management are interconnected and interdependent in a system from prevention and mitigation to preparedness, response, and recovery. In the center of the wheel are the main elements that influence the development of a Strategic Emergency Management Plan (SEMP). Figure 1 highlights the four interdependent risk-based functions of EM: prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from emergencies.
The SEMP should ideally be reviewed on a cyclical basis as part of a federal government institution's planning cycle, as presented in Figure 2 below. This figure represents the optimal planning cycle federal institutions should consider for undertaking their emergency management planning activities. May: Senior Institutional Management reviews year-end reports from the previous year's activities. September: Senior Institutional Management conducts mid-year check on progress of key performance objectives.
February: Senior Institutional Management makes decision regarding the institution's strategic priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
This section of the Guide outlines a recommended approach for developing a tailored SEMP and is supported by a blueprint and a SEMP template provided in Annexes A and B, respectively. Please note that Step 5 is presented under Section Four: Implementing and Maintaining the SEMP.
Each step identifies inputs or considerations at the outset and concludes with the associated outputs. This step involves starting the formal planning process in recognition of the responsibility to prepare a SEMP. Consider having members of the EM planning team designated by your institution's senior management. One of the most crucial steps in the EM planning process is to identify appropriate members for the EM planning team.
Consider including a member of your institution's corporate planning area on the EM planning team in order to help align the EM planning cycle with the institution's overall business planning cycle. Federal government institutions should consider identifying the range of experience and skill sets required in the EM planning team. The team members should have the skills and training required to adequately carry out their assigned duties.
The team members should have the skills and training required to adequately carry out their assigned duties. The composition of the EM planning team will vary depending on institutional requirements; however, it is important that clear terms of reference (TOR) for the team be established and that individual assignments be clearly defined.
After the EM planning team has clear authority and direction, the next step is to review any relevant existing legislation and policies. Consider giving a team member the responsibility of analyzing the legislative and policy obligations applicable to the development of the SEMP. As noted in Section Two, the EM planning process should be carried out as part of an institution's overall strategic and business planning processes—this will support their alignment. As a next step, federal government institutions should consider developing a comprehensive understanding of the planning context. Additional supporting planning tools and templates as well as an EM glossary are provided in Annexes C and D, respectively. As part of the environmental scan, the institution defines the internal and external parameters to be taken into account when managing the risk and setting the scope and risk criteria for the remaining risk assessment process. The Planning Context is represented in a target diagram that consists of three circles representing the factors federal institutions should consider in order to understand the context in which it operates and how it could potentially be affected.
The outer and middle circles represent the external context in which the institution seeks to achieve its objectives. Understanding the internal context is essential to confirm that the risk assessment approach meets the needs of the institution and of its internal stakeholders.
Understanding the external context is important to ensure that external stakeholders, their objectives and concerns are considered. Consider reviewing your federal government institution's most current environmental scan, as well as the most current RCMP Environmental Scan (which can be found on the RCMP Web site), in order to develop a better understanding of pressures and issues facing your institution. During this process, consider conducting a full review and analysis of stakeholder documentation and reports.
An inventory of critical assets and services will assist the planning team in identifying the associated threats, hazards, vulnerabilities and risks unique to their institution.
Adopting the current Treasury Board Policy related to material and asset management and coding criteria will help structure an effective approach.


A comprehensive but non-exhaustive list of hazards and threats relevant to the Canadian context can be found in Annex C, Appendix 3. Traditionally, a threat assessment is an analysis of intent and capabilities in the occurrence of a threat. In order to identify vulnerabilities, an institution should first identify and assess existing safeguards associated with critical assets and activities. Risk assessment is central to any risk management process as well as the EM planning cycle. The output of the risk assessment process is a clear understanding of risks, their likelihood and potential impact on achieving objectives. The all-hazards risk assessment (AHRA) process should be open and transparent while respecting the federal institution's context. Once the institution's context is clearly understood (refer to the environmental scan in Step 2-1), the next step is to find and recognize hazards, threats and possibly trends and drivers, and to describe them in risk statements. Risks can be identified though several mechanisms: structured interviews, brainstorming, affinity grouping, risk source analysis, checklists and scenario analysis. A risk register or log is used to record information about identified risks and to facilitate the monitoring and management of risks.
The objective of risk analysis is to understand the nature and level of each risk in terms of its impact and likelihood. Qualitative analysis is conducted where non-tangible aspects of risk are to be considered, or where there is a lack of adequate information and the numerical data or resources necessary for a statistically significant quantitative approach. Consider consulting your institution's subject matter experts when evaluating quantitative likelihood through historical data, simulation models and other methods. The purpose of risk evaluation is to help make decisions about which risks need treatment and the priority for treatment implementation. Risk criteria are based on internal and external contexts and reflect the institution's values, objectives, resources and risk appetite (over-arching expression of the amount and type of risk an institution is prepared to take).
Risks can be prioritized by comparing risks in terms of their individual likelihood and impact estimates.
The risk-rating matrix allows for decisions to be made about which risks need treatment and the priority for treatment implementation. Risk treatment options can be prioritized by considering risk severity, effectiveness of risk controls, cost and benefits, the horizontal nature of the risk, and existing constraints. Consider gathering a list of institutional risks and cross-referencing the existing plans (as identified in Step 2-1c) that address each risk. This step will contribute to the concept that sound EM decision-making can be based on an understanding and evaluation of hazards, vulnerabilities and related risks. Each institution should establish an EM governance structure to oversee the management of emergencies. In identifying members of your institution's EM governance structure, keep in mind the relationship between your institution's mandate and the four pillars of EM. It is important that the planning team confirm the strategic priorities of the institution and of senior management so that they can be reflected in the SEMP. Consider developing an overview of these priorities and identifying potential areas for attention given risk probabilities and vulnerabilities.
The planning team should aim to clearly identify the planning constraints and institutional limitations that will influence the SEMP building blocks and the subsequent development of the SEMP. Emergencies can quickly escalate in scope and severity, cross jurisdictional lines, take on international dimensions and result in significant human and economic losses. Federal government institutions are increasing their focus on emergency management (EM) activities, given the evolving risk environment in their areas of responsibility. This is why Public Safety Canada has developed this Emergency Management Planning Guide, which is intended to assist all federal government institutions in developing their all-hazards Strategic Emergency Management Plans (SEMPs).
Many federal government institutions already have specific planning documents or processes to deal with aspects of emergency management that relate to their particular mandates; many also have a long track record of preparing and refining BCPs. An All-Hazards Risk Assessment Framework and associated tools are also under development and will be included in a subsequent version of the Guide. As a matter of process, the Emergency Management Planning Guide will be reviewed annually or as the situation dictates, and amendments will be made at that time. The Guide includes a Blueprint (see Annex A), a Strategic Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) template (see Annex B), and supporting step-by-step instructions, tools and tips to develop and maintain a comprehensive SEMP—an overarching plan that establishes a federal government institution's objectives, approach and structure, which generally sets out how the institution will assist with coordinated federal emergency management, including response.
As such, federal institutions are to base EM plans on mandate-specific all-hazards risk assessments, as well as put in place institutional structures to provide governance for EM activities and align them with government-wide EM governance structures.
It reflects leading practices (such as those provided by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Canadian Standards Association) and procedures within the Government of Canada, and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Response Plan, the Emergency Management Framework for Canada and the Federal Policy for Emergency Management. It should integrate and coordinate elements identified in operational plans and business continuity plans (BCPs). It is intended that governments and industry partners will work together to assess risks to the sector, develop plans to address these risks, and conduct exercises to validate the plans.
This work at the sector level will inform, and will be informed by, work at the organizational level such as EM plans and their component parts.
Those elements are as follows: Environmental Scan, Leadership Engagement, All-Hazards Risk Assessment, Training, Exercise, Capability Improvement Process, and Performance Assessment.
These functions can be undertaken sequentially or concurrently, and they are not independent of each other.
In order to effectively depict the cycle, the four seasons are placed in a wheel diagram showing how spring, summer, fall, and winter are interconnected and continuously flow into one circle.
The upcoming year's critical objectives are indentified with input from the various Working Groups and the appropriate Business Lines. Emergency Management resource requirements should be identified as early as possible to integrate into plans.
Inputs should ideally be assembled, reviewed and well understood prior to engaging in each distinct planning activity as they form an important foundation for the work to be completed. The SEMP should be central to the federal government institution's EM activities and provide clear linkages for integrating and coordinating all other intra-departmental and inter-departmental emergency management plans. The size and composition of the team may vary between federal government institutions; however, the planning team should ideally have the skill and experience necessary to develop the SEMP. This team should be established under the authority of the institution's governance framework and have clear directions, including objectives. Training is available to address EM requirements at the Canadian Emergency Management College (CEMC) and the Canada School of Public Service. Training is available to address EM requirements at the Canadian Emergency Management College (CEMC) and the Canada School of Public Service. These TOR can identify the responsibilities assigned to each team member and the requirements to allow that member to carry out the assigned function.
Update the analysis regularly, as legislation and policies can change and have an influence on the scope of your SEMP. After completing the above steps, the planning team should consider developing a detailed work plan that includes a schedule with realistic timelines, milestones that reflect the institutional planning cycle, and a responsibility assignment matrix with assigned tasks and deadlines.
It entails a process of gathering and analyzing information and typically considers both internal and external factors (see Figure 3: The Planning Context for additional information on the factors to consider).


It sets the time, scope and scale and contributes to adopting an approach that is appropriate to the situation of the institution and to the risks affecting the achievement of its objectives. The key to any emergency planning is awareness of the potential situations that could impose risks on the organization and on Canadians and to assess those risks in terms of their impact and potential mitigation measures. It is the environment in which the institution operates to achieve its objectives and which can be influenced by the institution to manage risk. If gaps are identified, these should ideally be gathered and presented as part of Step 3 when developing the EM Planning Framework and confirming the institution's strategic EM priorities.
Assets can be both tangible and intangible and can be assessed in terms of importance, value and sensitivity. All available threat assessments should ideally be reviewed by analyzing the assessment's evaluation of hostile capability, intentions and activity, the environment influencing hostile and potentially hostile groups, and environmental considerations, including natural, health and safety hazards.
For further information, you may wish to consult the Canadian Disaster Database, which contains detailed disaster information on over 900 natural, technological and conflict events (excluding war) that have directly affected Canadians over the past century. A threat awareness collection process should ideally link to the federal institution's information requirements and available resources. As appropriate, more specific terrorist threat and hazard information can be obtained from ITAC.
With respect to known threats and hazards, a vulnerability exists when there is a situation or circumstance that, if left unchanged, may result in loss of life or may affect the confidentiality, integrity or availability of other mission-critical assets.
It is a formal, systematic process for estimating the level of risk in terms of likelihood and consequences for the purpose of informing decision-making.
It provides improved insight into the effectiveness of risk controls already in place and enables the analysis of additional risk mitigation measures.
A risk assessment should generate a clear understanding of the risks, including their uncertainties, their likelihood and their potential impact on objectives. It should be tailored to the institution's needs and should identify any limitations such as insufficient information or resource constraints.
Risks should be described in a way that conveys their context, point of origin and potential impact.
Characterization of risks should use an appropriate breadth and scope; it can be difficult to establish a course of action to treat risks if the scope is too broad, while a scope that is too narrow will create too much information, thereby making it difficult to establish priorities.
A risk register will typically describe each risk, assess the likelihood that it will occur, list possible consequences if it does occur, provide a grading or prioritization for each risk, and identify proposed mitigation strategies.
Probabilistic methods provide more information on the range of risks and can effectively capture uncertainty, but require more data and resources. Additional information on analyzing likelihood and impact is provided in the Treasury Board Integrated Risk Management Framework Guidelines. In order to prioritize risks, comparison is made based on their likelihood and impact estimates. Treatments that deal with negative consequences are also referred to as risk mitigation, risk elimination, risk prevention, risk reduction, risk repression and risk correction.
These treatment options, forming recommendations, would be used to develop the risk treatment step in the risk management or emergency management cycle.
The EM planning governance structure may include representatives of an institution's senior management team, from all functional areas (such as programs) and all corporate areas (including communications, legal services and security). It is also crucial that roles and responsibilities, lines of accountability and decision-making processes be aligned and well understood by all concerned. For example, an institution can be constrained by the availability of training for EM planning team members and by the number of EM positions they have staffed. EM can save lives, preserve the environment and protect property by raising the understanding of risks and by contributing to a safer, more prosperous and resilient Canada. It does not lay out the requirements for preparing related EM protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures (SOP) internal to the institution; however, these should be developed in support of the SEMP and related plans.
As outlined in the Preface, many federal government institutions already have specific plans or processes to deal with aspects of emergency management; many also have a long track record of preparing and refining BCPs, which endeavour to ensure the continued availability of critical services.
Planning can be triggered by the EM planning cycle or it can be initiated in preparation for, or in response to, an event that is induced either by nature or by human actions.
Consideration should be given to having representation from several program and corporate areas, including (if applicable) regional representation.
Notwithstanding the blueprint provided, this step is not proposed as a linear process, but rather as a set of related components and activities that can be undertaken in the sequence that best suits the institution. The following diagram illustrates the external and internal environmental factors to consider.
This process will add the extra assurance that your institution is linked in with partner agencies and others to assist in developing the broader environmental picture and in identifying EM-related interdependencies. Each institution has its own strategic and operational objectives, with each being exposed to its own unique risks, and each having its own information and resource limitations. An all-hazards approach to risk management does not necessarily mean that all hazards will be assessed, evaluated and treated, but rather that all hazards will be considered. It can be a useful tool for managing and addressing risks, as well as facilitating risk communication to stakeholders. Descriptive scales can be formed or adjusted to suit the circumstances, and different descriptions can be used for different risks. The one most commonly used is the risk matrix (Figure 4), which normally plots the likelihood and impact on the x- and y-axes (the measured components of risks). EM planning, in particular, aims to strengthen resiliency by promoting an integrated and comprehensive approach that includes the four pillars of EM: prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
In addition, there are other existing EM planning documents and initiatives that apply to a range of federal government institutions, such as the Federal Emergency Response Plan (FERP) and deliverables under the National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure. This is also an ideal time to develop an initial budget for such items as training, exercises, research, workshops and other expenses that may be necessary during the development and implementation of the SEMP.
Stakeholders may include First Nations, emergency first responders, the private sector (both business and industry), and volunteer and non-government organizations. This part of the process consists of three main activities: risk identification, risk analysis and risk evaluation. It involves the identification of risk sources, areas of impact, events and their causes, as well as potential consequences. A risk portfolio or profile can be created from the register, helping to compile common risks in order to assess interdependencies and to prioritize groups of risks. Existing controls, the cost of further risk treatment and any policy requirement implications are considered when deciding on additional mitigation measures. The aim is to develop a SEMP that integrates and coordinates elements identified in hazard-specific plans and BCPs. Information can be gleaned from historical data, theoretical analyses, and informed and expert judgements.
Such a plot can help establish acceptable or intolerable risk levels, and establish their respective actions.



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