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The Ontario Disaster and Emergency Management Conference: All to know before you go

September 13, 2023
By Nicole Pinto


The Ontario Disaster and Emergency Management Conference (DEMCON) is an annual conference held in Toronto that brings over 300 delegates from the emergency management community together to share knowledge and lessons learned. The two-day event offers keynotes, concurrent sessions, panel discussions, workshops and roundtables. It provides a space to network, build on each other’s experiences and feel a sense of community with like-minded individuals.

Delegates attending DEMCON 2023 will gain value from four renowned keynotes, 12 concurrent sessions, two in-depth workshops, one interactive roundtable and one panel discussion. The general theme surrounding the conference is about networking and knowledge sharing amongst peers, revolving around the five components of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, planning, response and recovery. However, as the DEMCON Planning Committee, a partnership between Emergency Management Ontario, the International Association of Emergency Managers Canada – Ontario Region, the Canadian Red Cross, First Nations Emergency Response Association, Ontario Municipal Social Services Association, EPIC Podcast, Disaster and Emergency Management Student Association (York University), CIFAL York, and J&J Expositions, selected speakers, some general themes emerged. Delegates will notice three main themes: mental health, collaboration and co-ordination, and community resilience.

Our speakers bring their vision, learning and best practices to the table. The conference begins and ends with our keynotes each day. From Bryan Riddell’s reflection on Team Rubicon Canada’s missions supporting community resilience to Rebecca Macklon’s follow-up from her previous year’s session on creating a culture of preparedness on Day 1, delegates will be engaged. Day 2 ends with a well-known keynote, George Kourounis, known for hosting the Angry Planet television series, who will share his experiences and lessons learned from traversing the extremes.

Slotted between the keynotes, the conference’s concurrent sessions, panels, workshop and roundtable will be thought-provoking and informative for those who attend. Delegates will gain a deeper understanding of considering vendor risks in emergency planning, a co-ordinated  and collaborative approach to response, cultural and psychosocial safety, innovative approaches to community safety, mass fatality planning, First Nations supports in emergency planning and response, navigating change, and Canadian emergency management professionalization and governance. The concurrent sessions, panels, workshop and roundtable provide delegates with an array of options to choose from.


We are thrilled that this year’s conference will see two sessions hosted by Emergency Management Ontario (EMO). Bernie Derible, the deputy minister and commissioner of emergency management, will be the opening keynote on Day 2 of DEMCON. He will discuss the province’s strategy and action plan for emergency management, as well as address initiatives for a safer Ontario. A second session will be held on Day 1 of the conference, moderated by Katee Brough, public education program officer with EMO. This session is an interactive workshop that will engage participants in conversation on including mental health in all stages of comprehensive emergency management.

The two-day conference is not just about enhancing knowledge through speaker sessions, but is also a place for emergency management professionals to come together and connect with each other. There are plenty of networking opportunities during each day of the conference with a morning and afternoon break. Delegates also have the opportunity to chat with their favourite speakers over lunch on the second day of the conference. Furthermore, what is a conference without some fun? All delegates are invited to a welcome reception the night before conference Day 1, as well as an afternoon mixer and evening festive on the first night of the conference. It’s a great way to unwind with peers after a long day of information sharing!

Still unsure of whether to attend? Check the website, https://crtdemcon.ca/DEMCON/, out for yourself! An added bonus for delegates is that you get access to two conferences for the price of one. Continuity and Resilience Today (CRT) is being held at the same place and time as DEMCON, so delegates have complimentary access to the CRT program as well. Delegates also have the opportunity to listen to sessions they are not able to attend in person for a specific time-period post-conference.

The DEMCON Planning Committee has been diligent in creating a wholesome program. The opportunity to come together with the greater emergency management community to share and learn more about current emergency management topics is not to be missed! We hope to see you there!

Nicole is the program manager (A) for the Ontario Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT), operated under Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Prior to this, her emergency management and business continuity experience included roles within various levels of government such as the Health System Emergency Management Branch at the Ministry of Health, York Region Public Health Branch, Halton Region Health Department, the Cities of Burlington and Vaughan, and as a quality and risk intern with the, previously known, Central Community Care Access Centre. She is currently the Planning Committee chair for DEMCON. Nicole has over 10 years of experience in the field, with a master of arts degree in disaster and emergency management from Royal Roads University and is certified as an associate business continuity professional through the Disaster Recovery Institute (Canada).

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