A major fire was burning at a strip mall in the downtown area of Port Coquitlam. Senior city staff were arriving to take their posts at the city’s emergency operations centre.
Tara Stroup, emergency program officer for the City of Port Coquitlam, was there, ready and able to guide them thanks to her training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).
“The courses at JIBC have helped me to feel confident in my role of leading senior staff in an activation activity,” she said. “They came in not really knowing what to do and I was able to stay calm and assertive and guide them in the different aspects of what they needed to do in order to fulfill that process.”
Tara has worked a total of 15 years in the emergency management field with three different municipalities. She currently manages Port Coquitlam’s city emergency program, including ensuring staff and volunteers are trained, and conducting annual exercises so they’ll all be ready when disaster hits.
It was a role she first inherited as an administrator in a local fire department and which she came to enjoy. As a mother of four, well versed in the art of planning, coordinating and juggling activities and schedules, it was a natural segue into the field.
“Emergency management is an extremely dynamic field with so much work, it’s incredible.”
Emergency management is an extremely dynamic field with so much work, it's incredible
When she sought more formal education, Tara turned to JIBC. She gradually earned an Emergency Management Certificate as time allowed, then completed an Emergency Management Exercise Design Certificate, and recently finished her Diploma in Emergency & Security Management. Next on her to-do list is a Bachelor of Emergency & Security Management Studies. The latter two are online programs that not only fit into her busy schedule but give her practice in two aspects of the job, organizing and self-reliance, all with the support of instructors who are a phone call away.
Tara stressed that one of the keys of the training she received was learning the standard, common language of governments, their agencies, universities, utilities and emergency responders when an emergency hits, be it a local fire or a major earthquake.
“That’s the beauty of JIBC, they teach the Incident Command System which aligns everybody so we all understand the same terminology and we’re all talking the same talk.”
She has become passionate about ensuring vulnerable citizens are looked after in an emergency. That’s thanks to a JIBC course in which they learned to map vulnerable populations such as people who speak English as a second language, or who have physical or mental disabilities.
“That really opened my mind and my thoughts as an emergency manager that we’re the advocates for those people. Who else is going to do it? They’re going to be the ones that need our help the most so we should know where they are,” she said. “Only through the instruction of the JIBC courses did I learn that. It wasn’t something that’s intuitive. It only comes to light through the training that you take. But it was a discovery for me and a really good one.”
Her JIBC education has been useful in more than just professional situations.
When asked what’s been helpful in her personal life, the mom said with a hearty laugh, “Probably the courses on conflict resolution.”
For more information on emergency management courses and programs, visit JIBC's Emergency Management page.