peleeIt was a dreary day 10 years ago, when a Cessna plane carrying 10 people crashed, shortly after taking off from Pelee Island. On Jan. 17, 2004 Georgian Express Flight 126 crashed into the icy waters of Lake Erie. The pilot, his fiancée and eight hunters from the area were killed. Without a doubt it was a huge tragedy for the family and friends of the 10 casualties, but in the big scheme of world disasters and crises it was a relatively small event.

That said there were over 10 agencies involved with the response: Ontario Provincial Police; local fire departments; emergency medical services; Red Cross; 2 municipal governments; provincial agencies; national transportation safety board; coroners; and, more. Each of these agencies had their own mandate & mission and they are all lead with by people with bosses & organizational agendas and all had HUGE egos.

How was this managed and led in a way that achieved all of the goals of all of the organizations? It was done by using the established emergency management systems and with communication with our organizations.

But the single most important thing that happened that day was the development of a team charter that laid out the game plan & role of each agency. And the most important part of the team charter was the definition of a clear MISSION.

I worked hard with the Police Inspector in charge of the response to define that mission that was posted prominently across the wall of the operations centre: To recovery the bodies and investigate the crash with the utmost respect & dignity to the casualties and their families.

Once your mission is defined then complete your charter by adapting this time tested 5-step military tool – SMEAC – to build your team’s charter.

  1. Situation.
  2. Mission and Objectives.
  3. Execution.
  4. Administration.
  5. Command & Control.

Situation

This is the introduction to the charter and should answer the following questions:

  • What problem is being addressed?
  • What result or delivery is expected?
  • Why is this important?

Mission and Objectives

By defining a mission, the team knows what it has to achieve as in the Pelee Island crash: To recovery the bodies and investigate the crash with the utmost respect & dignity to the casualties and their families.

Execution

By negotiating the execution phase of a Team Charter ensures that everyone understands:

  • Why the project needs to be carried out;
  • What the objectives and measures of success are;
  • Who is doing what; and,
  • With what resources.

Administration and Support

This section lists the resources available to the team to accomplish its goals. This includes:

  • Budgets;
  • Time;
  • Equipment; and,
  • etc.

Command, Control & Communications

Teams are most effective when they have members with:

  • The skills and experience needed to do the job;
  • They know where they fit into the organization;
  • Who is in charge;
  • What is expected of them; and
  • That they not get bogged down in communication.

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