2015 Distinguished Alumnus
Three decades after graduating from SAIT as a paramedic, Tom Sampson is Calgary's master of disaster.
As chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson pulls all the strings for planning, preparedness and response in the case of major emergencies. That means collaborating with heads of 29 agencies within the City of Calgary, from police to fire to waterworks to roads, as well as 19 external agencies, including ENMAX, ATCO Gas and Alberta Health Services. That's more than 100,000 people whose talents and efforts can be brought to bear in the event of a disaster.
As CEMA's acting director, Sampson played a pivotal role in Calgary's response to, and recovery from, the devastating floods of June 2013. He also managed the emergency operations centre at Slave Lake, Alta., during the devastating wildfire of 2011, and he directed a medical team during the Pine Lake, Alta., tornado in 2000. Sampson, 57, was previously the chief of Calgary's Emergency Medical Services and deputy chief of the Calgary Fire Department.
Tom Sampson (EMTP '85), Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency
"After 2015, our big response was the Fort Mac fires. The City of Calgary sent over 700 people to Fort Mac in various shifts. Simultaneously, we had about 2,400 people staying here in Calgary and we had the Emergency Operations Centre up and running. Following that, we've been asked to create an Incident Management Team for the province. It's a highly trained group that can go to any community and provide support to the leadership there. We have brought in FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency from the U.S.) to do some of the training. The people on the team are all qualified commanders, but we wanted to bring FEMA as they have expertise on some big storms and events to bring our training up to another level.
I love this job. I love the work we do. And I love that with the people, it's not a formal authority. It's talking about the issue and helping people get to real and tangible solutions. It's very, very rewarding. This is my 31st year of service in Calgary, but 35 years-plus in a uniform. The funny thing is, I still love getting up in the morning. And I've joined the Olympic Bid Exploratory Committee, so that's interesting on a bit of a different front.
The thing that is different about this job is you are on call 24/7. It never goes away. I always drive my work vehicle. I never have more than two drinks. So, I try to be sure to take my holidays every year. This year, it was six weeks in Maui."