A review completed by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) commends High River on its recovery and resiliency-building efforts following the 2013 Southern Alberta floods.
The report commended the Town on its focus on increased planning, education of staff and the broader community, and enhanced cooperation and collaboration between governmental, private, and not-for-profit recovery stakeholders.
“This report is important in providing an independent view of what our community could and should do in terms of emergency preparedness,” said Councillor Dragan Brankovich, chair of the Emergency Management Committee. “I was happy to see that most of the key recommendations in the report have already been incorporated into our emergency plans and that we have not missed anything that would be of critical significance for those plans.”
The review, which was requested by the Town, identifies themes and directions for further study as well as individual lessons and ideas from High River’s experience that will be of interest to others. This information will be used by the Town’s emergency management department to continue improving the Town’s readiness and ability to effectively recover from a disaster.
It specifically focused on the time period from July 2013 to October 2014 and was based on 31 phone interviews conducted with key individuals, as well as a one-day visit to High River that included a tour of the affected areas and a follow-up interview with select interviewees.
The interviewees, selected by the Town, represented a diverse subset of recovery stakeholders including elected Town and provincial officials, provincial government representatives, Town managers and staff, Alberta Health Services, Red Cross, MD of Foothills, members of the High River Chamber of Commerce and representatives from utility companies.
The review primarily concentrated on longer-term recovery activities targeted at restoring local infrastructure, economic vitality, and quality of life, and improving the conditions for recovery from similar events in the future. Some of the key activities included restoration of community services, replacement or repair of municipal infrastructure, community (re)development and improvement, mitigation and economic recovery and growth.
“The report also identified a need for continuous training and frankly, one can never be trained enough,” said Brankovich. “We are addressing this through periodic exercises designed to test one or more specific areas of our emergency plans. An example was the latest ‘meteorite’ exercise, which was very successful based on the information I have.”
In addition, the review suggested that the Town has an opportunity to embrace the berms and dikes as a defining feature of the town and take pride in them. High River could, for example, teach children about their purpose and how they are constructed to raise awareness of flood risk while building confidence and sparking interest in disaster management and preparedness. At the same time, it was recommended that the Town’s efforts to make residents aware of the High River Alert system, and to encourage them to register, should be continued.
Because there are still several areas that could benefit from further study, Town of High River staff are now conducting a second detailed review, the results of which will be shared in late 2016.
The final report is available here