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From the British Army to Cape Breton emergency preparedness, Rick McSpadden shares his journey to Nova Scotia

Rick McSpadden

From natural disasters to all other incidents and events, Nova Scotia Health’s emergency preparedness team plays a vital role in ensuring patients, families and staff are safe at its facilities and the impacts to health system services are minimal.

Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland Rick McSpadden, Nova Scotia Health emergency preparedness manager Eastern Zone, now calls Cape Breton, Nova Scotia home.

Prior to joining Nova Scotia Health three years ago, his career led him through the British Army and eventually into the field of emergency preparedness and response. 

He brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in both formal education and his time in the Army. 
Transitioning from military operations to civilian emergency management, McSpadden found himself drawn to the proactive nature of the field. He highlighted the importance of preparedness, education and continuous improvement, drawing comparisons between military strategies and emergency management methodologies. 

“Emergency preparedness falls naturally with how the military are taught to think and react,” explained McSpadden. “At the end of the day, it's about being proactive, which comes into your preparedness phase, education exercises, and updating plans—all similar to the military.”
McSpadden’s passion for exercise design and delivery shines through as he described the thrill of crafting scenarios and simulating responses to various crises.

In his current role within Nova Scotia Health, McSpadden’s responsibilities encompass a wide range of activities, from reviewing and updating emergency response plans to coordinating and facilitating exercises. 

“We're always reviewing because every time we have an incident, we do what's called an after-action review to produce a final report which generates improvement planning if required,” said McSpadden.

He emphasized the significance of constant improvement and accreditation, noting that every incident serves as a learning opportunity to refine plans and procedures. McSpadden’s role requires meticulous attention to detail, as he navigates the complexities of managing emergency preparedness across multiple sites and departments.

One of the key aspects of McSpadden's role is the design and execution of exercises, which serve as vital components of emergency preparedness. From tabletop discussions to full-scale simulations, these exercises test the effectiveness of response plans and identify areas for improvement. 
McSpadden highlighted the collaborative nature of these exercises, involving various participants and departments to ensure comprehensive preparedness.

It’s no surprise that McSpadden’s favorite aspects of his role is exercise design and response. Despite the challenges and pressures of emergency management, McSpadden finds fulfillment in the opportunity to make a difference and contribute to the safety and response when crisis arise.

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