Rick Minter is an expert in specialist training for crisis management teams. With a CV that boasts everything from specialist work in Alaska, to three years in the Army, he has endless hours of front-line experience. In 2018 he took over as the Emergency and Major Incident Manager at UNSW.
“Few universities have one role for an Emergency Manager,” says Rick. “But UNSW created the role off the back of a major incident they had a few years ago.”
Rick spent five years at Macquarie University before moving to UNSW, and says unfortunately people often find themselves in emergency management positions, almost by accident.
“People often become responsible for Fire Wardens because someone tapped them on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re it.’ Generally, it’s someone in Security or Health and Safety, and most of the time they don’t have formal training in Emergency Management,” he explains.
“Often the people in those roles aren’t there because of their willingness, knowledge or ability. They’re there because of their position and I see that as a weakness.
“UNSW were one of the first Uni’s to identify it needs to be a stand-alone position, given adequate resources required to function effectively, and play a key role in how the University is able to prevent, prepare, respond, and recover to merging threats in our constantly changing environment.”
Recruiting the right team and ensuring they get the right training is essential when it comes to emergency management, and Rick is proud to work closely with the training team at PRM Training Services.
“It helps when you have good trainers that come out and listen to you. What impresses me about PRM is they provide specific training programs for the needs of a business. A lot of programs are very generic – many of them are just ticking the box,” he says.
After joining UNSW Rick made contact with a number of universities across Australia and New Zealand to find out who was taking care of their emergency management.
“A key goal of mine was to establish a network of like-minded professionals in emergency management (EM),” he explains.
“We put forward the idea of having an association. Everyone was keen and it was a great chance to gain and share knowledge and experience.”
The Australasian University Emergency Management Association (AUEMA) was formed in 2018 and *35 universities, across Australia and New Zealand, are now members.
“This is the only emergency management association in the higher education sector of Australia and NZ,” adds Rick.
The objectives of AUEMA are:
- Promote the exchange of information on EM and related topics between EM professional working in Universities
- Promote uniform approaches to EM issues in Universities
- Provide representation to educational authorities and government bodies for EM
- Develop career pathways within the sector with clearly defined standards of training and education
AUEMA provides excellent possibilities to share knowledge, as well as gain insights into each others emergency management principles.
“It’s a great opportunity to share lessons across the board,” says Rick. “I recently attended UTS as an observer and to provide feedback for an emergency exercise scenario they conducted based on a terrorist attack at Museum Station. Many of the lessons learnt from this exercise can be directly transferred to our approach for a similar event.”
Collaborating is not only significant for education, it’s also cost effective.
“There is a qualification called AIIMS that Fire and Rescue use to manage crisis and it’s important university crisis teams understand the structure of AIIMS so they’re talking the same language,” explains Rick.
“Only a couple of organisations run the trainings and the cost was prohibitive. I went to them with a number of Universities and it was a great opportunity to leverage several mangers and do the training as a group so we could afford it.”
Australia’s relationship with New Zealand is also invaluable when it comes to emergency management education.
“New Zealand have a lot of experience with earth quakes and some unis have unique emergency experience, like the mosque shooting in Christchurch. In that situation there was a University only a few kilometres away and they went into lockdown. That uni is one of the best trained because of the earth quakes they’ve had to deal with.”
Managing Crisis in Change
Not everyone is cut out for a job like Rick’s and it’s important people receive adequate training, especially when it comes to crisis situations.
“I’ve seen people in these roles crumble because they haven’t had the correct training or experience. We are doing a review now to ensure we have a good mixture of people who are training appropriately.”
Changes have also come into effect on the back of Covid. With more people working from home universities cannot be sure wardens are always onsite.
“We have put together a new model where we group buildings into a precinct, with buildings that are similar and in close proximity. We bring those wardens to training at the same time so they can learn about each others building, such as key hazards and risks.”
When a fire alarm occurs in one of those buildings, all wardens get an SMS and if the Chief Warden is absent someone can take over.
“Now I can be 99% sure there is a Chief Warden responding in business hours,” says Rick. “A number of other Universities are now implementing it.”
Chief wardens are also paid an allowance now, something Rick has been pushing for years.
“It’s a voluntary role but there’s a lot they have to do. We now have a small allowance and incentive.”
Rick has had a huge impact on the emergency management industry and it will be inspiring to see what unfolds in the crisis management space in the future.
For more information on Workplace Emergency Management contact our team at PRM.
*Stats as of June 2021