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How to manage through a convergence of crises

2020 has certainly been a year like no other. With COVID-19 taking the world over in early March, the pandemic naturally became the global focus for the year. The pandemic presented a compounded challenge for many Canadian regions when coupled with the anticipated extreme weather events that have become annual occurrences. Will the duality of this type of crisis become commonplace for communities beyond 2020? And how will this added element impact emergency preparedness planning?

Certainly, the effects of climate change have made natural disaster events like flooding fairly predictable in certain regions, requiring more money, resources and manpower from communities already stretched from COVID economic impacts. This year however, cities were challenged to prepare for potential flooding and response operations, all the while trying to follow public health and physical distancing guidelines. At the peak of flood season, Ottawa city manager, Steve Kanellakos said at a council meeting, “it’s been very challenging for us to plan and move forward.”

In another example from this past spring, Alberta endured two separate but impactful flood events within weeks of each other. The first saw Fort MacMurray residents along the Athabasca River experience record high flooding due to warm temperatures and rapidly melting snow in the region. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, this flood cost Fort McMurray residents over $228M in insured damages.  A hardship in any year, it was even more challenging with roughly 117,000 Albertans out of work as a result of the pandemic.  Then,  just a few weeks later, Calgarians saw extreme rain and hailstorms sweep the city, leaving homes damaged and street flooded. From these two events more than 14,000 residents were displaced and forced from their homes.

The dual challenges of combatting flooding events and COVID-19 calls for heightened planning and preparedness while making the best use of available resources, especially as the anticipated “second wave” appears on the horizon. Experts predict the convergence of natural disaster and health crisis response will be a key consideration for emergency managers for years to come. We are seeing emergencies become more frequent and more devastating, with far reaching impacts to more communities across the country. Organizations are looking for better ways to manage competing emergencies and will need the tools to make data-driven, informed decisions on how to respond and manage multiple risks effectively.

Esri Canada’s Emergency Management Operations Solutions provides the tools needed to monitor events, like the combined threats experienced this year with COVID and natural disasters, and allows stakeholders to coordinate and deploy effective response, keeping staff, resources and the public safe. This solution harnesses GIS to provide spatial intelligence to emergency staff, so they have greater situational awareness to better understand the impact and can facilitate clear communication with stakeholders involved. Comprised of six apps, integrated to work in lockstep or configured to meet your specific needs.

View the following short demo videos to see the Emergency Management Operations Solution apps in action:

  1. Public Information:  Share incident information with the public in real-time.
  2. Initial Damage Assessment: Analyze damage assessment reports and access data faster to coordinate response.
  3. Operations Response: Gather critical operations insights to make timely, informed decisions during a crisis.
  4. Situational Awareness Viewer: Analyze the potential impact of an incident and mitigate damage risk.
  5. Incident Briefing: Access information in a portable, map-based format to make quick and informed decisions.
  6. Incident Status Dashboard: Identify critical events and alerts using maps and live indicators such as the number of reported incidents, active watches and warnings, people affected, open shelters and more.

Interested in exploring how you can extend your GIS to manage emergency events more efficiently? We can help! Visit the Emergency Management Operations Solution page for more details.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here

About the Author

David Hamilton is the Public Safety Industry Manager for Esri Canada. His efforts are focused on advising customers how to use GIS technology to improve all areas of public safety, specifically (NG)9-1-1, law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, emergency management, and search and rescue. Prior to joining Esri Canada in 2010, David managed the GIS for E-Comm 9-1-1 in Vancouver, and worked for the RCMP at the Integrated Security Unit for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games where he managed their Common Operating Picture. Being active has been a major part of David’s personal life; soccer, track & field, skiing, cycling, hiking and now kayaking are all among his favourite activities.

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