August 31, 2021
Preparation is key to successfully navigating emergencies
During a crisis, organizations are stretched and tested. Proper planning, well in advance, can help individuals and teams be ready to confidently jump into action and keep stakeholders safe. At Silvera, that primarily means two important groups: residents and employees.
Silvera has been tested a few times. Two recent large-scale examples in the past decade are the current pandemic and the Calgary floods in 2013. Both times, like many organizations, we needed to manage all the details correctly and share timely information. We had to keep our residents and employees safe and our communities operating seamlessly, amid ever-changing circumstances and many uncertainties. Examples that are smaller in scale – but can have immense impact – include a community in an influenza outbreak or something that needs a community evacuation.
“When an emergency strikes, having a well prepared and practised plan keeps employees calm and ready to appropriately react,” says Jonathan Hamon, Health and Safety (H&S) Program team lead. “Silvera’s ability to navigate crises effectively at Silvera isn’t due to luck, it’s the result of planning and regular training with employees across the organization.”
Silvera has an emergency response plan (ERP). It is overseen by Jonathan and the rest of the H&S team. The ERP is regularly analyzed, practised and updated. It involves people across the organization and at all levels. The ERP helps ensure we move in alignment when responding to an emergency – including the incredibly important task of interacting with the organization’s many stakeholders. This way, when Silvera needs to declare a crisis, employees are trained and ready to activate the plan to start ensuring the safety of residents and employees.
The ERP follows a formal, internationally adopted crisis response structure, called the Incident Command System. This system is a hierarchy of procedures to managing incidents. It is also used by local emergency response teams such as police and fire departments, so we can “speak the same language” and respond quickly together, as needed.
All Silvera employees have worked hard during the pandemic alone, keeping residents, themselves and others healthy and safe. While the pandemic is ongoing and we are always focused on how Silvera can improve what it delivers to residents, we have learned a lot about our emergency response capabilities the past 18 months. Thank you to everyone for their dedication.
Guarding Silvera’s reputation during a crisis
In the article above, we looked at our emergency response plan (ERP). Now we’ll look at how crisis communication planning fits into the ERP.
When an emergency strikes, the ERP is activated. A key component of the ERP is a crisis communications plan, which is put into action by the Communications team as managed by Scott Ranson, Senior Manager, Communications.
It is a stand-alone document that provides a team structure, procedures and tools to communicate with internal and external audiences about what Silvera is doing to respond to an emergency. The crisis communications team actions the plan and works directly with the leader of the ERP structure.
“Think of crisis communications plan as being fused to the ERP,” says Scott. “It’s the arm of the response that ensures Silvera is positioned to be the trusted source of truth. We need to be the single channel that residents, their families and employees tune into for the timeliest, most accurate information. We also need to be mindful of anyone else who could potentially be impacted.”
At any given time during an incident, audiences can include residents, their families, employees, neighbours of Silvera communities, the media and the public. They look for timely updates from Silvera directly, and through conventional media (radio, television and newspaper) and social media (including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).
The team works with employees across Silvera, helping them have the correct information when interacting with the organization’s many stakeholders. Community management teams are often involved, given all the touch points they have with internal and external audiences.
“An emergency well managed but poorly communicated can be damaging to an organization’s reputation and brand,” says Scott. “Excellent communications during an incident can reduce the emotional load on people. Organizations that communicate transparently in a crisis, with aligned information, can emerge with a stronger brand.”
In the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Silvera recognized the virus’ movement early on. We proactively activated the ERP in spring 2020, giving us time to be as prepared as possible “should” it reach our communities. The crisis communications team began preparing key messages, updating letter templates and more.
The plans remained activated for just a few weeks, while the organization has remained focused on operating safely and vigilantly. From a crisis communications perspective, daily updates were done when any community was in a declared COVID-19 outbreak.
New dementia research moves Silvera forward
Silvera recently partnered with the University of Calgary to uncover emerging promises, practices and tools that could help us improve dementia care at Silvera.
“We are a dementia-friendly organization, so it’s important that we keep current about research innovations in our sector that could help improve both residents’ quality of life and employees’ ability to provide excellent care,” says Barbara Hagen, Senior Manager, Impact and Innovation.
Read more here on the Stories/Blog section of silvera.ca.
Getting back to offering the events and programs residents enjoy
We’ve been welcoming back volunteers and service providers. Many are familiar faces to residents and employees, ones we haven’t seen since spring 2020. The smiles are wide as we catch up and do interesting things together.
Volunteers and service providers support Silvera’s goal in expanding the events and programs that help residents stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. Residents have listened to music and done art projects, gone on Trishaw bike rides,… A few communities brought in musicians and bands for dinner entertainment and dancing. Some residents have had daytrips and picnic lunches.
“It’s heartwarming to see residents being active and enjoying their days,” says Barbara Hagen, Senior Manager, Impact & Innovation. “These rich experiences are exciting to offer. We’re working together toward our new normal – in fact, I think it’s going to be a better-than-ever normal.”
Barbara commends how everyone keeps working together, identifying and implementing improved ways to approach situations. Some things worked so well that they’re now a part of our regular practices.
Our use of technology provides several examples of this. Employees helped residents use tablets for virtual visits and doctor appointments. We started using Clorox Total 360 machines and those are here to stay, efficiently and effectively disinfecting all sides of common-touch surfaces.
More people will come in, and this of course increases potential exposure. The top priority remains the health of residents, employees and visitors. The boosted cleaning procedures stay in place, in-community influenza vaccine clinics will happen in the coming months,… We’ll also have enhanced screening procedures for volunteers, service providers and other visitors. More details to come on this as we wait to hear updates from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hinshaw.
“A friendly reminder that the processes and procedures inside Silvera communities are different than the in the general public, because residents have been identified as a population vulnerable to illnesses,” says Barbara. “It’s okay if you get confused and need some clarity about what needs to be followed at work – always feel comfortable talking to your supervisor or community management team.”
Let’s continue treating ourselves and others with compassion. We are all adjusting in our own unique ways. Keep monitoring and honouring your personal comfort level, and being patient with one another. This includes refraining from speculating about other people’s circumstances, and their personal choices about using extra measures.
Thank you for your ongoing vigilance and professionalism.
How to ask for help
Asking for comes naturally for some. For others, it’s anything but easy. If you get chronically exhausted and overwhelmed, though, you can’t deliver your best work – so asking for help’s vital.
Here are some tips for when you need to ask for help:
- Recognize when you need it: Know your limits and manage your energy wisely. How do you respond to stress? How do you know when you have reached your limit? The answers can help you understand when you need help.
- Be clear about what you need: When asking, explain exactly how the other person can help you. What specifically do you need help with?
- Ask the right person: Seek help from someone who has the specific skills needed for the task at hand. Otherwise, you might end up further behind.
- Be helpful in return: Extend help to others when you see them struggling. Remember to get permission first – jumping in to “fix” other people’s problems without their permission can backfire.
Getting comfortable with asking for help can take time, but it can make your life a whole lot easier. When it comes to asking for help, the earlier the better.
An unforgettable summer
What a summer it has been. There have been so many things to celebrate, one of the biggest being able to safely be together again.
For residents, it started off with Stampede celebrations. Silvera employees coordinated delicious meals, toe-tapping music and opportunities to enjoy each other’s company in the sunshine. Residents have also had adventures in the city – such as a lovely morning at Bowness Park – and out of it, including the Okotoks Erratic southwest of Calgary and Forgetmenot Pond near Bragg Creek.
It has also been great to begin safely welcoming back volunteers and performers into Silvera communities. Residents at several communities have enjoyed a few live music performances, with volunteer musicians and band Silence in B’tween. Some residents got outside on Trishaw bikes to enjoy some fresh air and a few local sights – the volunteer pilot one day at Beaverdam was a resident’s daughter-in-law.
These have helped residents stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. It has been invigorating for residents to be able to gather and spend time together once again! Thanks to every employee who contributed to all of the festivities residents were offered throughout summertime.
Gardens have been a blooming success
It has been another successful summer gardening season at Silvera. Many communities have residents who plan, plant and maintain the annual blooms. Volunteers help, and employees – particularly the Active Aging team – offer tremendous support. Gardening has therapeutic benefits for residents, and everyone can enjoy the resulting flowers and plants.
Thank you to everyone who helped residents plan, plant and maintain the annual blooms.