Get Ready to ShakeOut – this Thursday!

The following blog post was written by Graydon Leigh, a political science major at the University of Victoria. Graydon grew up in Port Coquitlam, BC and aspires to be a journalist. He is an avid hockey fan and is honoured to write about volunteerism and community events in Victoria.

      Victoria resides in one of the most seismically active regions of the world. Although it may not seem like earthquakes occur on a regular basis, small shockwaves are recorded quite frequently in British Columbia. As many people are aware, we lie on a seismic fault that is one of the most earthquake-prone in Western Canada.

      Earthquakes can happen at any time. While those of us who live in this beautiful part of the world are powerless to stop this act of nature, nothing can stop us from preparing to face this potentially life threatening situation.

     The Great British Columbia ShakeOut was created as a public safety campaign to equip British Columbians with the necessary skills to respond in the event of an earthquake. Originally developed in California, another high-risk earthquake zone, the ShakeOut is an educational event that is targeted at the community level. The drill encourages concerned citizens, schools, businesses and other organizations to put their heads together in an effort to create a life changing public service that could potentially save countless lives. After all, research shows that people are more prepared for a natural disaster after attending information and safety events and practicing how to respond.

 I had the opportunity to speak with Emily Dicken from the BC ShakeOut organizing committee. Her passion for the event was obvious, as she informed me that participating in ShakeOut is a great way to practice what to do when you feel an earthquake. Evidence shows that people are more likely to respond appropriately during an earthquake if it is something that they have routinely practiced.

      I also learned that the ShakeOut is Canada’s largest earthquake drill, and the 2012 event will be the third annual drill held in British Columbia.

      This year’s drill is taking place on Thursday, October 18th at 10:18 AM and ShakeOut will cut across borders, providing life saving information to millions of people on the West Coast of North America. British Columbia as well as California, Oregon, and Washington will all be taking part in the event, practicing “drop, cover, and hold on” at the exact same time.

      While the event was first held in the United States, it has since spread internationally and includes Japan, Italy and Guam.

      Emily from the ShakeOut organizing committee put great emphasis on being prepared – not only during the shaking, but after it as well. She recommended building a personal preparedness kit with enough supplies for 3 to 7 days following an earthquake.

      Volunteers can play a vital role in the Great British Columbia ShakeOut. Get involved today!

Help share the ShakeOut within your community by organizing a “drop, cover, and hold on” event. Visit the ShakeOut BC website  for more information and access to free resources.

      So take a spin on the information superhighway and register to promote earthquake awareness today!


Update: The 2012 Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill is this Thursday (October 18th at 10:18 a.m.), and more than 570,000 people are registered to participate. In total more than 13.6 million people worldwide that will practice earthquake safety Thursday, and even more will see and learn what to do through your example.

If you are registered for this year’s drill, thank you! If you participated in the past but have not yet renewed your registration for 2012, there is still time to renew at


Succession Planning – Is Your Organization Ready for the Future?

Today we’re pleased to feature a guest blog post by certified HR professional Ginger Brunner. Ginger is principal of Dynamic HR Solutions Inc and will be facilitating our upcoming “Succession Planning” workshop on February 17, 2011.

If the employees who currently hold key or critical positions within your organization were to leave tomorrow, would there be any qualified and/or experienced employees prepared to assume their role?

Many organizations are struggling to answer this question as the demographics of the workplace continue to shift. Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal employees with the potential to fill key or critical organizational positions. In the past, succession planning was something that only larger corporations did; it didn’t apply to smaller businesses or not-for-profit organizations … until now.

Consider this:

  • Forecasts show that by the year 2012, the first wave of baby boomers – individuals born between 1943 & 1965 and the largest generational demographic in today’s workforce – will start to retire.
  • In 2009, the rate of retirement in BC among senior managers was 42 retirements per 1,000 people in the labour force, compared to 23 out of 1,000 people in the labour force overall.
  • The highest retirement rates are in senior management positions and occupations requiring the greatest skill and experience. These occupations typically have an older labour force given the years of work experience and training required to fill the positions.
  • In 2009, the average age of senior managers in BC was 46.6, compared to 40.7 across all occupations.
  • Organizations that fail to prepare for the need to replace retiring employees could experience issues with productivity and product/service quality.
  • Unless organizations have programs and/or systems in place to ensure that corporate knowledge is not lost with departing employees, valuable time, energy and productivity will be wasted on re-learning processes and procedures.
If your organization is considering, or is in the process of implementing succession planning, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
  • In order to be fully effective, succession planning should be more than a stand-alone initiative. When developing succession planning strategies, they need to fit within the overall strategic direction of the organization. This helps strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.
  • Succession planning is not just an HR initiative. Senior managers need to be responsible for identifying strong leaders within his or her organization and helping them develop in preparation for the next step in their career.
  • The “fear of being replaced” needs to be substituted by a “desire to be replaced”. Senior managers need to embrace the opportunity to mentor and prepare aspiring individuals to step into his or her position. Even if they are not retiring, this enables them to perhaps advance into another position in their own career path.
  • Succession planning may need to include looking outside of the organization. Although it is preferable to be able to develop individuals from within the organization, it is not always possible or realistic for a variety of reasons. In these cases, the organization may need to look outside of itself to recruit new talent.
  • Succession planning should be an ongoing process. Re-visit succession plans regularly to ensure that they are being followed, and make adjustments as required.
Whether or not organizations foresee a turnover of key leadership positions, implementing a proactive succession plan will help minimize the loss of corporate “memory”, increase employee engagement and, ultimately, strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.

To reserve your space in the upcoming Succession Planning workshop offered by Volunteer Victoria, click here.

What will it take to be prepared?

If you’ve lived in Victoria for any length of time, you will undoubtedly have heard people talking about “the big one.”  When will the big earthquake hit, we wonder.  And will we be prepared when the time comes?

Although it is important to plan how our organizations will react to a large full-scale earthquake, it is equally important to plan how we will react to smaller, more day-to-day emergencies.  That is the message that the Victoria Emergency Management Agency (VEMA) and the Canadian Red Cross gave to non-profit organizations the other day in our half-day workshop on “Emergency Preparedness for Voluntary Sector Organizations.”

Facilitators Sara Walsh, Elysia Dempsey and Monty Crisp reminded us that all organizations are vulnerable to all types of emergencies, from a flooded office, power outage or gas leak, to a pandemic that keeps the majority of an office’s staff at home.  To some, these types of emergencies may not seem like big issues, but tell that to our often vulnerable clients who rely on the services of non-profit agencies to be there consistently for them no matter whether the power’s on or not.  The fact is, we need to take time now to plan how we will continue providing services to our clients in the face of any sort of emergency.  Luckily, VEMA has worked closely this past year with Victoria’s Community Council to develop a Service Continuity Planning Guide to assist non-profit organizations to do just that.

Planning for service disruptions is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of activity, so the Guide is full of templates that each organization can use to develop a unique and useful plan for their own situations.  If organizations are worried that taking the time to plan for emergencies will tap their already tapped-out resources, they can rest assured that creating a basic plan should be fairly easy.  In fact, most of the information that organizations need to create their own Service Continuity Plan should mostly be readily available to them.  It’s just a matter of pulling it all together.

The folks who know about emergency preparedness and how to do it well often talk about ‘mitigation’, but what does that really mean?  It means that we need to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to preparing for emergencies that might affect our organizations.  Planning for smaller day-to-day emergencies actually helps us build capacity to manage bigger events when they occur.  No matter what size emergencies we will eventually face, the impact on our clients, staff and volunteers has the potential to be quite large indeed if we don’t have plans in place.  A little work ahead of time is all it takes and we’ll be ready when the time comes.

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