Security and emergency management instruction in Qatar

By Jeff Vasseur, candidate in the NAIT Emergency Management Diploma program

Picture1My disaster experience began on September 2, 1998 when Swissair Flight 111 crashed off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia, killing all 229 persons on board. Within hours of the crash, I was deployed to the Canadian Coast Guard Ship MATTHEW to participate in the search, rescue and eventual recovery operations. I was also involved in response and support operations following the 1998 ice storm in the Quebec City area, Hurricane Juan in 2013 near Halifax, and several on- and off-shore military security responses for the United Nations (domestic and international), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

I am a member of the CNA-Q’s Crisis Management Team, which is responsible for developing and maintaining the campus emergency management plan for approximately 700 employees. I am also a member of the developmental team for the CNA-Q’s first (and one of the Gulf region’s first) academic offering in Emergency Management at the Certificate/Diploma level. As a Crisis Management Team member, I liaise with the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Emergency Management Network, conduct tabletop exercises and promote emergency preparedness on campus. I am currently developing linkages with the International Association of Emergency Managers, the Emergency Planning College (UK), and the Business Continuity Institute.

Perhaps the first challenge in teaching security in the Middle East is the inevitable language barrier. In Qatar this is a consequence of rapidly expanding construction and development, and the increasing number of migrant workers. Construction and growth started with the discovery of oil in the 1940s and the more recent finding of massive natural gas reserves. Expansion of the capacity to export liquefied natural gas has propelled Qatar into being the wealthiest nation in the world per-capita.

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Doha, approximately 1975

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Doha, 2013

There are some major differences teaching in Qutar as opposed to in Canada. The English language abilities of the students present obvious challenges in communication and lesson comprehension. Sensitivities predominant in the Arab world such as male and female gender segregation are much more pronounced in the Middle East and although we are a Canadian college, males and females are often separated by institutional policy; for example “male only cafeterias” and classroom seating based on gender. Respect for religious observations include allowances for daily prayers in designated rooms on campus, spaces for ablution (cleansing) before and after prayer, and the use of modest attire at all times. The students on campus are a mix of local Qatari and other Arab nationals from the Gulf States – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, neighbouring Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria and Jordan, African nations (Sudan, Somalia, Kenya) as well as expatriates from European, North American, and Asian nations. An interesting difference with Canadian students, is that here at CNA-Q, the students are almost all sponsored employees of companies operating in Doha.

Professional development and continuing education for working professionals can be a challenge. Research lead me to the NAIT Emergency Management Diploma Program and it quickly emerged as the ideal scholastic pursuit because of the immediate relevance of the curriculum, applicability to my current responsibilities, and the flexible mode (online) of delivery. Every course is directly related to my teaching or Crisis Management Team duties, and also offers a very valuable opportunity to connect with other practitioners across Canada and overseas.

Bio

Jeff Vasseur is a student in the NAIT Emergency Management Diploma. He started the program in Spring 2013 and is currently on the Dean’s Roll of Honour. Jeff is also an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar (CAN-Q), a Canadian-based technical college in Doha, State of Qatar, where he teaches security and emergency management for front-line security personnel in the oil and gas sector.