The City of St. Albert's former director of emergency management has received an Emergency Management Exemplary Service Award on behalf of the provincial and federal government.
Percy Janke, who worked with the city for 27 years before retiring earlier this year, was the city's director of emergency management throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the devastating fire occurred at the Citadel Mews West seniors complex in 2021.
Janke is one of 51 award winners this year from across the country and across multiple award categories and was recognized for his work during the pandemic.
Janke said receiving the award was a surprise and an honour, but he felt that the award is an honour shared with over 80 other staff members who worked together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For me, emergency management is more of a team approach than an individual doing things because it's more the organization and everybody you're working with that provides emergency management for the community,” Janke said.
“I look at this as a broader award for the community honestly, and the team that was involved in our emergency operations centre incident command post and our emergency management team.”
A release from the federal government on Sept. 7 says Janke's leadership was paramount in the city's quick response to the onset of the pandemic.
“His admirable leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for a timely response from the (City's Emergency Operations Centre) demonstrating the adaptability of the emergency professionals and efficiently collaborated with Alberta Health and Health Services, and the Government of Alberta,” the release says.
“Respected by all who have worked with him, Mr. Janke prioritizes the well-being of his team with his encouragement, and by creating a supportive team environment,” the release states.
Prior to serving as the director of emergency management, Janke was also a firefighter and paramedic, an assistant chief medical liasion, and a deputy chief with St. Albert Fire Services.
It wasn't until after he served as a firefighter and paramedic that Janke decided to go back to school to earn a master's degree in emergency management from Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C.
“Emergency management was always a bit of an interest for me,” he said, adding, “it was more out of the interests sake than anything originally to (get the master's degree) and it created some opportunities for me, and it changed some of the roles that I did over time.”
Looking back at the city's initial response to the pandemic, Janke said one of the major challenges was the flow of information from other levels of government.
“It was an interesting time,” he said. “There were so many changes and so many different responses that we had to do as a community in response to what the province was telling us.”
“We didn't get heads up on changes like closing recreation centres down or anything like that that the (province) was getting us to do so it was definitely a time where there's some quick results and changes had to occur.”
Janke said an unintentional benefit of the pandemic was its ability create bonds and trust between city staff whose work rarely if ever intertwined.
“Some of the best things that came out of (the pandemic response) I can think is some of the relationships that people developed even within the city knowing what other individuals are able to do in different departments,” he said.
“People actually got, in some way, engaged with people they weren't necessarily involved with previously and got some different relationships and knowledge of who might be a go-to person to help with different initiatives in the future.”
With those bonds in place, and the investments the city's made into it's new emergency operations command centre in Fire Hall No. 1, Janke said he felt the City of St. Albert is well positioned and equipped to handle future emergency situations.
“There were so many people involved in getting our emergency management system to where it is,” he said.
“We have a facility in the city that I think future proofs the city for emergency management in the long term in terms of any activation that's required and we have great people there that are doing great things, whether it's in emergency management, whether it's in emergency social services, and great people in (emergency) response as well.”