Natural disasters and emergencies happen from time to time. In particular, the Rainy River District has experienced many floods over the last few years, making the importance of being prepared for emergencies greater than ever.
Patrick Briere, Emergency Management Field Officer in the Amethyst Sector, noted that the last flood was in 2022 when the district set records for high water.
“When something does happen, like a flooding or forest fire, have something in place to help you be prepared, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to try to put things into place,” he said.
A few residents were displaced. Although emergencies such as flooding seem to be getting worse each time they come, lots of work is being done to ensure that communities are prepared when the unexpected happens.
Briere’s new role as field officer for Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) officially began on September 11, 2023, and has been a long time in the works. He has had to withdraw previous applications for the role due to personal emergencies; however, thankfully the opportunity arose again.
“With the life changes that I’ve gone through over the last few years, it was the right opportunity at the right time. And I jumped at it for sure,” he said.
There are currently two field officers for the northwest region and Briere is one of them.
He works closely with Field Officer David Rasi who is set up in Thunder Bay. Together, they cover a large geographical area, educating and training the public to ensure communities have safety plans in place.
“We go past Marathon, almost up to the Walleye area, then we go to the Manitoba border and we have a good chunk of the Far North. So we have a big geographical area,” he said. “David and I are working together and building lots of plans to get our folks up to speed and up to date.”
As a liaison to all provincial resources available, in case of an emergency, for example a flood or train derailment in Fort Frances, Briere would be in charge of bringing provincial resources to help communities recover.
Briere is also positioned at a huge advantage being originally based out of Fort Frances. The province can now easily network with emergency management partners in the Kenora-Rainy River Districts, International Falls, and Manitoba too as Briere continues to build relationships with his former network.
Field officers for the northwest also work with Indigenous partners, unorganized areas, and any communities nearby that may need support.
“The biggest piece is the networking and collaboration that I’m able to do and I get to travel around with the communities and help people out with their planning with their emergencies. That’s the best part of it,” he said.
Briere entered the new role prepared with loads of background experience. Working in his own home area, in the Rainy River District and Thunder Bay Districts, also enabled him to continue building many of the relationships gained from his former roles.
“It’s made the transition really good, really easy,” he said. “It’s been awesome so far.”
Briere served in multiple roles in the Town of Fort Frances. He was originally brought on as a by-law enforcement officer and worked for over 15 years. He also served as co-chair for the Joint Health and Safety Committee and in multiple titles including alternate CAO and emergency information officer for the Emergency Management Control group.
“I also ended up in the last six to seven years, taking on more of the incident command role with that group, developing our plans, and being the lead on all of them reporting to council,” he said. “That really gave me good insight into Emergency Management Ontario, and how emergencies run at the provincial level. It’s really helped me out in the long run.”
He is also proud to be part of the Northwest Response Forum as a planning team member. The conference happens every two years, he said, and a fantastic training opportunity for emergency management coordinators across the north to share what has been going on.
Emergencies happen unexpectedly, and although a lot of recovery work is often led by municipalities, individuals can also ensure they are prepared in case of emergencies.
“I think the best thing that individuals can do is to have plans for themselves and their families,” Briere said. “Have 72-hour kits prepared and in place. And just just discuss and practice what would they would do in case of a fire or case of a flood. And if their residence became uninhabitable, ‘where we can go, what would you do, what does that look like?’”
“I know the last flood was in 2022, and the flood in 2014—we did have displaced residents,” Briere said. “The biggest key is making sure people are prepared. If people have questions, they can definitely see me around town and they can reach out and ask.”
To contact Briere for more information on Emergency Management Ontario, email at Patrick.Briere@ontario.ca.