The Brandon Emergency Support Team began with a meeting held in the summer of 1998. Bill Prosser from CXY Chemicals, now CANEXUS, John Gallager and George Young from Western Cooperative Fertilizer, and Gord Collis from Simplot Canada met with Deputy Fire Chief Rich Gregoire and Emergency Coordinator Brian Kayes to discuss emergency preparedness and response in Brandon. As the afternoon went on it became evident that not all of the representative groups were at the table. The industrial sector also includes the transporters and the end users of their products.
With the basic players identified it became clear that this group could assist the City’s Emergency Preparedness Program by forming a team that would cooperatively develop its own program while at the same time being connected to the City’s Planning and Exercise Team. From this first meeting there was already a sense of excitement at the possibilities that existed for Brandon and by extension, the rest of Manitoba if not Canada. There was agreement that a single voice and concentrated effort on emergency related issues would be the most effective.
If the concept caused a stir in our minds, the first name we came up with did not. The Brandon Industrial Emergency Preparedness Support Group was at best a mouth full of words that could be used as a working name. It would serve the purpose until a better name could be crafted.
At the invitation of the Emergency Coordinator, the next meeting was held on September 23, 1998. The purpose was to raise interest in establishing the Brandon Industrial Emergency Preparedness Support Group. The goal was to have input from Business and Industry that could assist the City in its overall emergency preparedness activities. More than one hundred business people were invited and of that group more than thirty attended.
Brian Kayes spoke passionately about the City of Brandon and emergency preparedness. Bill Prosser and Gord Collis added their enthusiastic support for the concept and the group itself. They all touched on the vision of the group as being one that can:
- work with the City of Brandon and provide a valuable resource to their Planning and Exercise Team;
- help promote, develop and coordinate a consistent emergency preparedness program for Brandon;
- ensure that members of Industry and the City are kept informed of current emergency preparedness issues, trends and activities;
- carry out promotional activities that will ensure awareness and knowledge of our program within the community at large;
- carry out promotional activities that will increase the level of preparedness by the citizens of Brandon by informing them about the dangers and safety measures of specific industrial products.
By the end of the hour presentation a core of people were convinced that the idea was worth working for and set about to take the first formal steps to creating what we know today as the Brandon Emergency Support Team.
A steering committee was formed and many meetings followed. One of our early tasks was to develop an identity for the group. Up to that time we saw ourselves as a group of people interested in making a good idea come to life. This can be a wonderful experience for a moment or two but if we were going to be sustainable and prosper we had to have a feeling of kinship, ownership, and permanence to our organization. After much brainstorming at one meeting, Rich Gregoire, who was Deputy Fire Chief at the time, and a great mind for acronyms, suggested Be, Ee, esS, Tee, the Brandon Emergency Support Team - B.E.S.T. How could you disagree with that? Brandon has always strived to be the best and so it became an essential ingredient in our organization.
The other key ingredient for us was stating our purpose. We needed to have a solid understanding of why we were working together. We needed a mission statement that was simple and would help remind us of our purpose. After much discussion, brainstorming, and many rough statements written on the white board, the Steering Committee was pleased to write our Mission Statement as this: B.E.S.T. is an Industry, Business and City partnership to provide effective community education so the general public knows what to do in an emergency.
Two of our early decisions lead to our final decision about funding for the program. First, we wanted to provide information to our public at no cost to them. Secondly, we wanted to provide top quality products that would be seen as valuable and worthwhile. In short we wanted to develop an effective and valued program. This meant that we would need a large enough budget to be able to do just that.
The Steering Committee decided that the Emergency Coordinator’s time would be best spent working with people on emergency preparedness issues and on the B.E.S.T. program as a whole rather being obsessed with fund raising. The City agreed to provide startup and ongoing funding with the understanding that Business and Industry would commit to providing $50,000 towards the program costs. The Steering Committee agreed and developed an annual membership fee structure that was designed to meet that goal.
Each of the contributing members receives an appropriately designated certificate of membership for the year. There name is also added to the B.E.S.T. display board that is located in City Hall by the Louise Avenue entrance. A list of contributing members is included on any of our larger projects such as the booklets, calendar and video that we have produced.
Since B.E.S.T.’s beginning in 1999 the team has been involved in a number of educational projects for the public. Many of these are featured in this web site.