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Anticipation and Practice: Emergency Preparedness Week

Today is May the 4th, also known colloquially on social media as “Star Wars Day” (May the Fourth… be with you. Get it?). While I am tempted to post a super-cute picture of my dog in an Ewok costume and call it a day, next week (May 7-13, 2023) also happens to be Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada. So I find myself thinking about the fate of the Death Star (first iteration). Still seems like a big oversight that Luke was able to take it down with one shot. Where was the emergency planning in that?

The Death Star’s Health and Safety team would have benefited from this year’s theme: Be Prepared. Know Your Risks. It’s intended to encourage Canadians to understand the risks in their area and learn what actions they can take to protect themselves and their families.

To give us a solid perspective on safety at Petro-Canada, we connected with Stasy Presutto, Manager of Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) at Suncor, the proud owner of Petro-Canada. Stasy supports the Sales and Marketing operations at Petro-Canada as well as their integration into the broader Downstream business. He’s been in this role for a little over 7 years.

Anticipation and Practice: Emergency Preparedness Week

PT: Stasy, thank you for talking to me today. Emergency Preparedness Week starts next week and the theme this year is “Be Prepared. Know Your Risks.” How does this theme fit into what you do for Petro-Canada?

SP: My job is both proactive and reactive. Obviously, if a health and safety incident occurs, we’re there to provide support in a reactive way. But we try to focus on being proactive – dealing with incidents that could occur but haven’t yet, so that we’re all better prepared. We work on identifying risks, and then developing the plans we need to put in place. It’s a great fit – the more we can identify potential risks and plan for handling them, ultimately the better prepared we’ll be.

PT: How do you build emergency preparedness on your team and with sites in the field?

SP: What I do falls into two key areas: “Practice makes perfect” and “Anticipation”.

First, “Practice makes perfect”. We know from research that in the event of an emergency, stress causes people to react ineffectively. We want to regularly practice what we do in different emergency situations so that it’s second nature. By having regular drills – at all levels: retail sites, wholesale sites and head office – we know how to protect people (guests, employees and contractors), the environment and our assets. The more prepared you are, the better you will respond in a crisis.

These drills are around what could happen on a site and how would we respond. And I try to encourage a continual learning environment. Health & Safety isn’t a “one and done” thing, it’s an important value we need to live every day. After drills, I make sure to connect with each member of the team to ask, “What did you learn and how would you improve?” We’re always learning and, no matter how many drills we conduct, we always come up with ways to improve.

PT: Then what about “Anticipation?”

SP: This is about encouraging a mindset of proactive thinking, about being aware of hazards that exist or situations that may come up and how to deal with them. For example, we ask our site operators, “What would you do if you had a spill of gasoline at this site? How would you respond?”

And this mindset extends to head office as well. It’s why we have a Safety Moment at the start of each meeting. You don’t want to turn a safety mindset on and off – it needs to be present in everything we do.

PT: How would this safety mindset extend to your personal life? How can readers be more prepared?

SP: Here’s an example… I recently drove to Panorama for a skiing trip. Panorama’s pretty remote and there’s an area on Highway 93 where there’s no cell service for about 100 km. So I asked my passengers, what would you do if the car breaks down at the 50km mark of this stretch of highway? The responses include blank stares and “I have no idea.” So, I start running through different scenarios and make sure I have what I need. Ask yourself “How prepared would I be if…” That’s what I do. What happens if my car breaks down? What happens if one of my kids goes into medical distress?” “What if there is a storm?” I can’t call for help as there is no cell service.

Then, based on all these scenarios, I develop plans. I made sure my car is well serviced with a full tank of gas. I checked the weather forecast. I planned to drive in daylight hours. I looked through my car’s emergency kit, saw that I didn’t have any water and added a few bottles. It’s all about considering your environment and being proactive.

PT: Any final thoughts?

SP: We can lose our common sense in an emergency. Thinking through and practicing your response in emergency situations makes it second nature. We can’t control the environment, but we can control our response. It’s all about being proactive and aware of the risks in a given situation. Seconds and moments do matter. Our lives may depend on it.

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Thanks, Stasy! Emergency Preparedness Week is a great opportunity to talk to your family about your emergency plan. Check out the government of Canada’s Get Prepared site for a list of resources on how to prepare for emergencies. There is also a list of province-specific emergency management organizations (EMOs); these EMOs can provide more specific information about natural hazards and other region-specific risks, such as tsunami preparedness in British Columbia or managing your farm animals and livestock in an emergency in Alberta.

Where are you in your emergency preparedness journey? Have you worked through any potential scenarios with your family or co-workers? We’d love to hear how your emergency practice makes perfect! Leave us a note in the comments. And stay safe out there.

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