: Brandon: An Emerging Hub for Disaster and Emergency Education, Science and Technology

by Ali Asgary
Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies
Brandon University

Hub cities are the 'switching centres' of the 'new world'. It is in these cities where related information professionals and institutions congregate. Cites which can best prepare themselves for such a role and for such agencies will prosper the most. If a city can situate itself to become a hub for particular activity then it will be in a position to attract large amounts of investment, and if it has innovative university departments, and colleges, added with local government interest and support, then reaching for such goal is not difficult.

There are many reasons why Brandon could emerge as a potential hub for disaster and emergency education, science and technology. They are briefly discussed here.

One key element of this emerging hub is the Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies (A-DES) at Brandon University. Universities are vital in creating education, science and technology hubs. Brandon University currently has the only disaster and emergency university program and department in Canada. A-DES is an interdisciplinary department and adopts a liberal arts and science approach. This department provides the skills and knowledge necessary to enable graduates to intervene effectively in natural and human made disasters that occur throughout the world. The emphasis is on an integration between the practical (hands-on) and theoretical aspects of disaster and emergency studies. Despite being new, the program is developing very rapidly and has attracted students from across the country. Construction of the unique university-based Emergency Operation Laboratory (EOL), designed to be used for education and research as well as advancement in disaster and emergency technology, will add to the program's uniqueness and importance.

The Manitoba Emergency Services College (MESC) is another essential element of this emerging hub. The College provides superior emergency response programs that meet the needs of the emergency services and industry. MESC has a national and international reputation as a provider of quality education and training in the areas of life safety, emergency response and emergency management. As a broad-based emergency services training organization, the MESC offers training all the way from basic skills to the management of major emergency incidents. The College offers a full-time program for persons interested in a career in the emergency services field. Many of the college programs are accredited through the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. Accreditation is a status granted to an educational institution or program that has been determined to meet or exceed standard criteria of educational quality. MESC staff and facilities, such as the practical training site, play an important role in this emerging hub.

The third key element of the hub is the city of Brandon Emergency Preparedness program along with Brandon Emergency Support Team (BEST) that brings together major industries and institutions in disaster and emergency issues. Brandon is now considered to be a leading city in disaster and emergency preparedness activities, as compared to other similar sized cities. The city's interest and attention to disaster and emergency management were important factors in considering Brandon as the host for the pilot emergency alerting project conducted in 2003 and supported by various partners, including Industry Canada.

The fourth and probably the most important element of this emerging hub is the city itself. Image of the city plays a crucial role in emergence of hub cities and it is usually reflected in quality of life measures. Ambitious cities endeavour to sell themselves to knowledge professionals and corporate and government investors. What these cities offer is no longer proximity to natural resources, a port or a tradition of engineering, but rather their 'symbolic capital'. That is, their culture, their style, their safety, their amenities, their schools and colleges, their quality of life. Brandon has a good image among Canadian cities in terms of quality of life.

The close relationship between all the above elements, was an important factor in the creation, and success of this hub. MESC was a key player in the establishment of the Brandon University A-DES program and, each year, MESC and A-DES conduct joint activities involving students and staff. The City of Brandon disaster and emergency coordinator also works closely with Brandon University through seminars and workshops. Both MESC and the City of Brandon provide advice and support to the A-DES program by nominating members to the A-DES advisory committee.

Brandon has the potential to emerge as a provincial as well as a national hub in disaster and emergency education, science and technology. The seeds have been planted. The next steps, after the recognition of and investment in existing potentials, are the establishment of a postgraduate program and of a research centre in disaster and emergency management.

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