1033 – Emergency management grads respond to pandemic’s call

Featured illustration of the novel coronavirus

COVID-19 has had a tremendous effect on businesses globally, leaving not-for-profits and small business owners grappling with plans to re-open. Many face the difficult question: What needs to happen so that I can stay afloat and keep my business running? Enter Master of Disaster and Emergency Management graduates Alisha Khan and Magda Sulzycki. Both are certified risk and emergency managers and together they have founded 1033, an organization that can help.

Alisha Khan
Alisha Khan

Named after the radio code for “help me quick” or “emergency,” 1033 is a global network of Emergency and Business Continuity Management (EM/BC) professionals who provide free advisory and consulting services to organizations impacted by COVID-19.

The inspiration for the new venture resulted from Khan and Sulzycki witnessing first-hand the struggles that small businesses like nursing homes and childcare providers were faced with. Knowing they had the skills and the networks to help, they decided to mobilize their connections to provide pro bono support to organizations that would typically fall through the cracks.

Magda Sulzycki
Magda Sulzycki

Much of 1033 business is focused in Canada/GTA and they are incorporated as a non-profit with a focus on small business/vulnerable services. However, since the startup’s humble beginnings it has gradually become a network of global experts, with 55 active volunteers from as far as the U.K., Bulgaria, India, UAE and Australia.

“It originally began as small way for us to help people and has turned into an HR platform where we connect not-for-profits and small businesses with resiliency professionals to support them with their response strategies,” said Khan. “We are using best practices and standardized approaches so that clients are confident in the work being done. This isn’t the time to experiment and try things we haven’t done before. We need to provide real support.”

All of 1033’s services are provided by volunteers who follow a structured and analytical approach to support. They have since brought on a small staff, of which the majority are York University graduates. Many current students have also been taken on as volunteers and they get paired with an experienced project lead to learn how to practically apply what they learned in school.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity for students to work on a meaningful initiative, especially at this time when it is hard as a new grad to get into the workforce. It gives them the ability to take advantage of some spare time at home, and team up with a seasoned resiliency practitioner,” said Sulzycki.

Consultations with clients typically includes an initial assessment where 1033 evaluates the organization’s response and outlines areas of improvement. In most cases, clients end up asking for support with return to office strategies, incident reviews, business impact analysis and support communicating with staff and customers.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency preparedness for small organizations was rarely considered a top priority. However, thanks to the quick action of alumni from the School of Administrative Studies, in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, 1033 has been and will continue to do a remarkable job bringing health and safety preparedness to another level.

“It’s been a very eye-opening experience to go around and convince people that they need to be prepared for emergencies and disasters. This awakening in the community is a step forward for sure. The landscape small businesses are operating in is a lot less stable than the one they imagined; it’s important for our community of professionals to inform people that this is not just a one-time thing, emergencies happen all of the time and we can help you to be prepared and responsive,” said Sulzycki.