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Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018

High River Municipal Recovery Plan Toolkit addresses pre-disaster recovery planning and post-disaster recovery

Post-disaster risk treatment

Across Canada, communities have experienced numerous disasters, including wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, and rock slides.  As first responders work to ensure the safety of their residents, protect property, protect the environment, and mitigate the impact of a disaster on the local economy, the immense challenge of disaster recovery begins to emerge.  

Rapid damage assessments begin to tally the consequences. Key leaders, who often have limited experience or time to weigh the relevant factors associated with disaster recovery, are faced with a multitude of decisions and an obligation to chart a clear path forward.  Specialists at Associated Engineering’s subsidiary, NOR-EX Engineering, understand that post-disaster community recovery can be complex and can create significant stress on a community.  

Dana Woodworth, Vice President & General Manager of NOR-EX Engineering, has led and provided advice on numerous disaster recovery projects at the provincial and municipal levels. Dana says, “The number and severity of disasters in recent years underscore the value of an all-hazards, community-specific, pre-disaster recovery contingency plan. The plan can be activated early in the disaster response phase based on established criteria, and then tailored to the unique situation.”  A pre-disaster recovery plan provides the much-needed structure and role clarity for decision-makers and stakeholders in the early days of community recovery. 

Aerial Home Flooding

The Town of High River’s disaster recovery experience following the 2013 Southern Alberta Flood was the catalyst for commissioning NOR-EX to create a Municipal Recovery Plan Toolkit for the Town.  Although legislation mandates each municipality to have an emergency response plan to mitigate risk, neither Federal nor Provincial authorities require communities to develop and maintain a community recovery plan.  An essential component of community level resilience, the Municipal Recovery Plan Toolkit enhances disaster preparedness, promoting effective response and recovery operations, thus reducing disaster risk.  

The Town of High River wanted to reduce disaster risk for the municipality. Despite the need, there is a paucity of workable tools for municipalities to develop their own recovery plans. Project Director, Brian MacGillivray, tells us, “The goal of this project is to address this gap and create a comprehensive recovery plan toolkit based on best practices, and focused on operationalizing existing frameworks and helping municipalities with the question of ‘how to recover’.”

This six-phase project includes extensive stakeholder engagement, research, the development of five municipal recovery guides and facilitator’s packages, and a comprehensive resource database. These tools are designed to support the development of the project’s final deliverable– a community-endorsed, all-hazards, pre-disaster recovery contingency plan (PDR ConPlan).  

As part of the Town’s flood mitigation program, flood-prone Wallaceville neighbourhood returned to an undeveloped state

The PDR ConPlan is an essential component of community-level resilience that reduces disaster risk.  A PDR ConPlan provides clarity at the municipal level to fundamental questions such as why, what, where, when, who, and how disaster recovery will unfold.  The PDR ConPlan is a best-practices recovery deliverable that results from a proactive process of visioning, risk assessment, stakeholder engagement, planning, and integration.  

Addressing climate change is an opportunity to reduce disaster risk in a meaningful manner 

NOR-EX is currently developing the facilitator packages, which will support the development of the PDR ConPlan by guiding the necessary discussions and decisions by community stakeholders. NOR-EX will lead and facilitate iterative planning sessions, with a facilitated session being devoted to each recovery guide.  NOR-EX facilitators will extract decisions and deductions from the stakeholders and identify recovery themes, outcomes, and objectives.  Thereafter, a post-session, after-action review will consolidate the learnings and NOR-EX will commence the development of the PDR ConPlan.  

Upon client acceptance of the PDR ConPlan, the Town of High River intends to make the Municipal Recovery Plan Toolkit available to all Alberta communities to support their journey to developing their own municipality’s PDR ConPlan.