The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has a new chief — deputy chief Susan Henry.
Henry will be replacing Tom Sampson, who announced his retirement on Oct. 7 and departs the agency on Nov. 30.
Henry thanked Sampson for his mentorship, saying “watching you in action has been a masterclass in leadership.”
Henry has been CEMA’s deputy since 2015, responsible for disaster risk reduction, community education and business continuity. She’s also helped turn Canada Task Force 2 into “one of the leading six heavy urban search and rescue teams in Canada,” according to a City of Calgary release.
Richard Hines, the city’s director of community standards, said determining Sampson’s successor involved a “robust” international search “to find the best combination of skills and experience.” Hines said applications came in from places like Hong Kong, California, Texas and across Canada.
He said Henry’s “educational background, combination of strategic experience, as well as a history in disaster deployment stood out.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said, while he had no role in deciding who the new CEMA chief would be, he knew who he wanted.
“We got the very best person in the world,” Nenshi said. “And luckily, she’s been with us this entire time.”
Henry has a Masters of Science in Emergency Management from Jacksonville State University and received the Medal of Honour for her work in the 2011 Slave Lake Wildfires. She has also won the Emergency Management Exemplary Service Award from Public Safety Canada.
“I can’t imagine how CEMA would have progressed without her,” Sampson said. “I’m confident in her skills, her background — she’s a mathematician who went into emergency management.”
Sampson said Calgary “couldn’t be in better hands” with Henry, and that CEMA would be stronger because of the change in leadership.
Enforcement, contact tracing still needed
Sampson and Nenshi also provided an update on the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, introducing new measures to support recent provincial measures.
“We continue to work with the Alberta government and their great partners on how to enforce the province’s new orders,” Sampson said.
Currently, the city’s 15 level 1 peace officers can issue tickets for public health infractions, and the city is applying to the province to have its 69 level 2 peace officers involved in enforcement.
On Friday afternoon, Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said some level 2 peace officers in the province will be allowed to issue tickets, while also going about their other usual duties.
Nenshi said the city is “ready and willing to help” bolster the province’s flagging contact tracing system that recently dropped 3,000 cases that were more than 10 days old after putting the onus of reaching out to close contacts of confirmed cases to those COVID-positive individuals.
“There are a number of innovative things that we are looking at and we’re trying to facilitate with the province, with private and public sector partners to just get way more contact tracers and get them now,” Nenshi said.
The mayor said AHS was receptive to possibly using university students who are finished exams or recently-furloughed workers, as well as streamlining training.
AHS confirmed it is working on specifics of the city’s offer and potential next steps.
In a statement sent to Global News, AHS said they are “working with a variety of agencies and individuals to increase the contact tracing workforce, including some private providers.”
“Some elements of case investigation/contact tracing must be performed by a regulated health professional, which is a factor in bringing in other providers,” the statement read.
The outgoing CEMA chief also said the city is relaxing street parking to support businesses.
Street parking in Calgary’s business improvement areas and business revitalization zones will have 15 minutes free parking, to be started and ended using phone, text or smartphone app.
Sampson’s last day with the city is Monday, after which he said he plans to depart to B.C. to provide medical care for his sister and brother-in-law.
In an interview with The Morning News on Global News Radio 770 CHQR, Nenshi said Calgarians can’t yet call 311 to register complaints about infractions during Alberta’s state of public health emergency.
“There’s a bit of an issue going on with the city and the province in terms of enforcement that needs to get sorted out,” Nenshi said. “It will be 311, but in the meantime, you can call the police non-emergency line — 403-266-1234.”
Nenshi said arguments of whether the provincial measures will be enough to halt the spread of COVID-19 are moot.
“None of that matters,” the mayor said. “The point is these orders are in place, they are the law — nobody in your house who doesn’t live there unless they’re a caregiver, no going to restaurants or bars with people who don’t live in your house, and so on.
“We’ve got to follow them and we’ve got to think to ourselves, ‘How do we do even better?’”