Today we are talking with Tracy Fattore, chief risk officer for The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory, who offers insights on how we have been managing risk during the pandemic. Learn about the process that the territory is using to make decisions about what should be open or stay closed, innovative initiatives in churches and social services, and what the "new normal" will look like going forward.
Brandon Laird 0:00
Hi, my name is Brandon Laird, and you're listening to the Salvationist podcast.
Welcome to another episode of Mission in a Pandemic, a six-episode podcast that will feature insights into how The Salvation Army is adapting as we reopen during the pandemic.
Today, we're going to talk with Tracy Fattore, chief risk officer for The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory, who will offer insights on how we have been managing risk during the pandemic. Thank you, Tracy, for coming on today.
Tracy Fattore 0:41
Thank you so much for having me.
Brandon Laird 0:43
During the pandemic, many of our units have continued to be open, as well as ones who have closed and are now reopening. What has The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda been doing to reopen ministry units safely?
Tracy Fattore 0:54
Thank you so much for the question. I think would be helpful to understand some of the process that we undertook before getting us to where we are today with the reopening. So since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately mid-March, The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda has initiated a territorial COVID response team, which is managed under the leadership of our Chief Secretary, Colonel Edward Hill. This response team had been meeting regularly and almost daily at the outset to oversee the territorial response. This group is also responsible for overseeing the reopening processes across the territory. So this group is made up of members of the territorial Risk Management Committee, which is Cabinet as well as a number of other leaders, for example, from national recycling, property department, social services, information technology, emergency disaster services, and employee relations. And so this group has been doing a great job in overseeing, essentially, the territorial response to the pandemic, generally speaking. Additionally, the territorial executive committee of the TC has also been meeting regularly and at one point was meeting at least weekly, sometimes twice a week, to also review issues and potential solutions at a territorial level. So this is really essentially the divisional leadership. So for example, that group would also discuss things like personal protective equipment availability across the territory, supplies, location of government grants, and other issues that might be being experienced across the territory. So this team really has been supporting the response.
Also, we're very much involved in making territorial decisions around closing down services. So, for example, our thrift stores, making the decision around dropping things like worship services in our churches, and things like closing daycares -- decisions such as those. And obviously, those are based on what we were getting in terms of recommendations and requirements from public health, as well as looking at risk management. Because obviously, the most important thing throughout this process is the safety of our people. So this group has been working really hard to ensure the process has been in place around closure. Now, as you can imagine, closing down actually seemed much easier than the reopening process. And the reason for this has been because every province and every local public health unit has essentially put in place their own specific set of requirements to reopen. So, for example, to reopen a thrift store, and in Newfoundland versus reopening a thrift store in Ontario, or out in BC, there are different requirements that the government is expecting to be in place. And each of those provinces or divisions has also been at different stages and the reopening, when you look at what the government is saying is reopening. It definitely has been a challenge. So this response group has also been responsible for receiving requests from the divisions to reopen their divisions and services and programs and ministry within each of the divisions. So initially, what was happening is each of the divisions had to submit in writing a plan for how they were going to ensure compliance with the government restrictions. And also we looked at implementing things for support to the divisions where the government wasn't providing advice. And at this time, all locations are in what we would call a stage three of the reopening and that has been resulted in us having great confidence in what the divisions are doing around decisions to open or close. Now, those decisions are being managed locally, given what's happening in the region and in the province, within the division.
Brandon Laird 5:17
How is The Salvation Army mitigating risk that comes with reopening?
Tracy Fattore 5:20
So obviously, throughout the process of reopening, you know, there are a number of common principles that we've applied. So definitely safety comes first. So that means the safety of our employees, the safety of our officers, our clients, our volunteers, and ensuring obviously, that provincial and local health requirements are being met.
And also, we're looking for compliance with our territorial policies. So for example, we've also developed some FAQs for employee and staff and volunteers screening, and ensuring that we are making sure that people that are coming to offer services or to provide worship services that they don't have COVID, that they don't have any of the symptoms, they aren't ill themselves. And also, at the same time, that we're also screening people that are using our services to ensure that they aren't ill. So that would just be an example. And we've also implemented a number of frequently asked questions to support our officers and stuff, because these are very complicated issues. And we want to provide as much support as we can. So essentially, that's sort of where we're at today. For the most part, with some variants across the different divisions, most plans for reopening have been reviewed and approved. That being said, there have been a number of decisions that have been made regarding certain things that will not reopen at this time, because these things can't be provided in a way that meets the requirements for public health, or there's just many challenges in terms of actually being able to implement. So for example, things like meeting the social distancing requirements, say, for example, in a small church, is one of the requirements. In some of the provinces, you must reduce your occupancy levels to certain percentage that you must have so much distance between people that are attending, you must have so much distance between an entrance and an exit, you must have a separate entrance and an exit. So some of these things just are very difficult to meet, depending on the physical layout of a particular building. And some of it is also the resources required. So ensuring PPE is there, ensuring hand sanitizer's there, there's certain cleaning protocols that have to be met. So it's very detailed, and it's very complex, you know, decisions have to be taken around: can we actually open safely? Most of these decisions, while being reviewed at the territorial level are now being made within the division.
Brandon Laird 8:07
What does the new normal look like for The Salvation Army, Tracy?
Tracy Fattore 8:10
So what the new normal looks like is us continuing to monitor and comply with the public health guidelines. As mentioned earlier, these are going to vary depending where you are in the territory, and even within a particular division or within a particular province. The local public health unit also has the authority to implement additional restrictions. So the new normal requires us to be very diligent and ensure that we are staying on top of what the expectations are. And it will require us to also continue to be flexible and nimble because what we expect to see particularly with the second wave is that COVID activity will increase in particular areas. And this could change depending on how the situation evolves. But at this point, we're not expecting to see a complete closure as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic. But what we're more likely to see is closures based on local activity. So, for example, this will likely be taking place in large cities where there's large populations where the transmission of COVID is happening with greater frequency and severity. So you could have a local outbreak in a particular city and the local public health unit will make a decision to close down certain services. So that would mean things that we decided to open -- for example, a church may be running some services, in compliance with the new guidelines, or thrift store may be operating the way it should be under the new guidelines -- but because of increased COVID activity, public health may indicate that those services should shut down or even be further restricted. So reducing the numbers, etc., of people that are permitted into the store or into the church. So that's going to require us to be diligent and to be flexible. And obviously, these are decisions that we don't take lightly because it has an impact on people. And we know just based on the uptake, we've even seen the innovative approaches around virtual worship services, like we've seen great uptake, and people attending these things remotely. So although it doesn't take the place of people coming together personally, people are still actively participating in those services. So the new normal will require us to continue to be innovative and creative. And we've seen some really good expressions around how we can do those continue to do those things that are really important to The Salvation Army and our staff, our officers, and you know, all of our members.
Brandon Laird 11:11
So you touched on some innovation there, and your answer sort of talks about the diversity of Canada, depending on where you are, and what's happening with COVID in your area, you're going to have to pivot, you're going to have to like react. Future plans are going to have to be somewhat adaptive, based on what winds up happening. So the new normal is going to be some more of the same of what we've been used to. But also, you know, as things open up slowly, people can then potentially be doing things that they were doing before, but like, really what we were doing before, it's not going to be the same, especially with these restrictions, people gathering before church and hanging out and having a coffee, or people gathering after talking about you know what they're going to do, or maybe going together to Swiss Chalet, which is a big thing in The Salvation Army -- people go to Swiss chalet after church -- those things aren't going to be happening right away, because we're still not there as a population. But you did talk about innovation, and some things that we've been doing with the virtual worship services. Is there any other things that you've been sort of seeing or hearing about, that we've been innovating in? And maybe new practices or new ideas during this COVID pandemic season?
Tracy Fattore 12:16
Yes. So, there's a few other examples with respect to worship services. So we have seen, within public health guidelines, things such as driving services, outdoor services. We've got checklists and things in place to make sure we're following the requirements put in place by public health. So, that's been really interesting to see. And people still being able to come together, but in a way that's safe and meets the requirements -- the things that are happening on the front line in places like our shelters, in our ministry units and other programs and services where people have had to adapt the programming to comply with the new requirements. So, for example, our daycares, they've had to work really hard to put in place some pretty high-level expectations around safety to ensure that the children are kept safe -- things such as defining drop off and pickup zones and ensuring they're looking at the type of things like where they have toys stored, and also just the number of staff that are required to oversee the children. So, people have really taken it very seriously and are actually adapting their programs and their services to be compliant so that they can still continue to provide the mission of the Army. So that's been really, really exciting to see.
The other thing is, just generally speaking, in terms of the administrative side, we very easily transition to working from home where that was possible. And for that fit for people in terms of the role that they have. And we really had no disruptions with respect to that. It's just amazing an organization of our the size, that we've been able to adapt with no major issues in relation to that. People have continued to work really hard and provide all the services that they were providing before but from a different place, and at home. And now saying that we know that that isn't the ideal environment for everyone. And through the reopening processes, we've been looking at how we can adapt and accommodate for those types of things, and get people back in their location if that is the right thing for us to do and meets the requirements. We've also seen some really, really good examples of what I would call exemplary services as well. So for example, in Newfoundland, in the height of the pandemic, you know, all the restaurants closed. We had a number of volunteers, about 50 volunteers, and this was coordinated through our emergency disaster services team, they provided over 2,500 meals for truckers because they had no way to get food because all the restaurants were closed. And we've also been very fortunate to receive some excellent support from partners through donation, either products or also financially in terms of grants. So we've been very fortunate to have that type of support, which we've obviously, in turn, made additional resources available to the ministry units, that could get to the front line to our clients and members. So that definitely, although we don't like to be in the midst of a pandemic, there's a lot of really good work that's happening and people are really coming together to be innovative and creative and adapt in this new environment.
Brandon Laird 15:52
Today, we were speaking with chief risk officer, Tracy Fattore. Thank you, Tracy, for taking the time to connect with us and communicating what The Salvation Army has been doing around mitigating risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks for listening to the Salvationist Mission in a Pandemic podcast. For new episodes, be sure to visit salvationist.ca/podcast. For more army news visit salvationist.ca. And if you would like to get news delivered directly to your email inbox, sign up for our weekly newsletter at salvationist.ca/newsletter.