10 Qs with

Jennifer Patchell

Member of York Region’s Community and Health Services Department Emergency Management Team


5. Name the top 5 benefits of working in an

all-Women’s Unit.

I was working for The Ontario Disability Support program when Hurricane Katrina hit. There was an ask from the Canadian Red Cross to the Provincial Government to send some of its social workers to support the response and I put my hand up. When I returned from the deployment to New Orleans I started volunteering for the Red Cross and soon moved to a position with the NGO.

Easier to relate to one another. We understand the importance of flexibility, many of us manage families, volunteer, maintain the home and other commitments while working in a stressful career.

6. What makes this team work successfully? How do you MANage this?

2. Tell us about what your unit does. How long has this been an all-Women’s Unit?

As we are in charge of our department – Community and Health Services Department – we all have portfolios/branches divided amongst us.

Jennifer P has Commissioners Office, Housing Services and Emergency Social Services. Leila B has Integrated Business Services. Sunny K has Seniors Services

Jennet R has Paramedic Services and Operational Planning, and Emergency Social Services. Every couple of years we get shuffled and get to support and work on other portfolios, so the branches get different perspectives, support and cross training.

  • Strategic advice when developing emergency and business continuity plans
  • Community emergency planning (including Emergency Social Services)
  • Business continuity planning
  • Incident response and incident recovery planning
  • Emergency preparedness/response education, training and exercises
  • Support when organizing After Action Reviews or developing After Action Reports

Officially, this unit became an all-Women’s Unit on May 12, 2022. Unofficially we’ve been one since mid-March.

7. What are your personal contributions to the team’s success?

Working with the Canadian Red Cross opened a lot of doors for me. I was fortunate to deploy to all sorts of disasters, work with some wonderful people and learn the realities of Emergency Management in the field. I come with practical hands on experience of what works and what may not and can pivot from one project to the next. I am a professional when it comes to hurry up and wait


There have been many but the I Count project was a starting point for me. I Count is a point in time count that helps to gather information on individuals experiencing homelessness to help prevent and reduce homelessness. This was one of the firsts big projects assigned to me while with York Region and I was able to use it to bring the value of IMS to programs that had never heard of or used the structure before. https://www.york.ca/newsroom/campaigns-projects/i-count-im-not-just-number

8. Since the beginning of this team, what is an obstacle

that you have overcome?

We have had many changes in leadership. We once were all imbedded within programs then gradually we all were put into one unit and then COVID hit We have seen many managers come and go all during the COVID-19 response so it has been challenging trying to hold everything together while responding to the pandemic.

4. What is your favorite part about working in all women’s unit?

9. What advice would give to someone getting their start in the field?

Women hold things together, we know how to multitask, and we are used to having to work harder to be recognized.

Talk to everyone, get to know people because it’s a very small world and I can't tell you how great of an asset it is to be able to call upon others for advice, resources or planning support.