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Within a few hours, traditional communication avenues were lost. The Twitter handle @RMWoodBuffalo quickly became the most reliable, centralized information source.

Members of the communications team were forced to adapt on the fly as they, too, were being evacuated. There was no time to panic or to perfect a course of action. Their duty was ensuring the safety of others. Trust, and the ability to feed off each other’s positive energy, enabled them to manage the stress of a natural disaster.

“It was a fight-versus-flight mentality,” says Russell. “We had to put our heads down and get the job done.”

Brad Ross, Executive Director, Corporate Communications at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) can empathize with plowing through to get a job done. Every day, he is responsible for communicating information (good and bad) to a workforce of 14,000 and 1.8 million stakeholders. Brad counts on his experience in communications and journalism when crises occur.

“A day that can be seemingly routine can be punctuated with delays to the system and service interruptions,” says Brad. “Crashes, collisions, personal injury or theft are just some of the issues that could present themselves at any given time. We have to be prepared.”

Brad notes that a crisis doesn’t always have to be an emergency.

“The TTC is a public entity,” he says. “There is a responsibility and accountability to make sure public funds are managed effectively. Failure to do so can lead to a crisis of confidence in the organization and its leadership.”

In April 2008, three weeks into his role at the TTC, Brad was faced with a labour strike that resulted in 36 hours without public transportation. In the midst of this crisis, Brad’s principles remained the same: Be open, honest and transparent. The messaging was simple: “There is no service.”

People want information. That’s why Brad has 22,000 followers on Twitter, not to mention more than 250,000 followers on the TTC’s customer service and notices handles. It’s his responsibility to provide answers. A simple, “We’re working on it,” followed by regular updates go a long way.

As Brad points out, the right attitude, coupled with empathy and integrity, can mitigate almost any crisis.

Innovative alumni with big ideas acting on a global stage

Zac Bowland’s company Vanguard is conducting dives in the Himalayas to help local communities detect and prepare for floods caused by melting glaciers.

“What could I do in underwater diving that would be uncharted?”

Many Seneca alumni are finding that their technological skills are taking them to unexpected places to do extraordinary things

Zac Bowland

Bradly Hoover

Ali Al Dallal
Mozilla Foundation

“I’VE BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD trying to chase this profession,” says Zac Bowland. He isn’t kidding.

A commercial diver, and graduate of Seneca’s Underwater Skills program, Zac goes where the work is. Recently, that meant Long Beach California. In the past, it’s meant Alaska, Taiwan and Japan, doing underwater repairs on damaged ships.

Originally from Montana, Zac joined the U.S. Navy out of high school, obtained a degree in geophysics, then fell in love with a Canadian woman (also a diver). That brought him to Seneca and a life-changing moment of inspiration.

“I was working as an instructor at a skydiving school,” says Zac. “I saw Felix Baumgartner do the ‘space bomb,’ where he dove from space. They built their own space program for his idea. I thought, ‘What could I do in underwater diving that would be uncharted?’ I started looking at high-altitude diving.”

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