Earlier this year heavy rainfall caused catastrophic flooding in Alberta, Canada, triggering one of the largest and costliest disasters in Canadian history. More than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate and damages were estimated to be in the billions of dollars. The Canadian Red Cross responded to help those affected and the American Red Cross stepped in to lend a hand.
The American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross have a long history of helping each other during disasters. During Hurricane Sandy, the Canadian Red Cross deployed over 80 disaster responders to help assist people affected by the destructive storm and support the American Red Cross’ disaster operation.
The flooding in Canada destroyed homes and businesses, caused damage to transportation and telecommunication infrastructures, contaminated water supplies and left large regions without power. Now it was the American Red Cross’ turn to help people in Canada.
The Canadian Red Cross supported shelters with personnel and deployed relief supplies such as cots, blankets, hygiene kits and cleaning supplies. The organization also provided direct aid and registered people to support the delivery of government financial assistance. The Canadian Red Cross and the Province of Alberta are partnering to help families as they begin to recover, supplying furnaces, hot water tanks and other essential heating items, as well as furnishings for eligible homeowners in the flooded areas. This allows families to stay in their homes as winter approaches. The Red Cross and the Alberta government are also partnering to provide mental health and emotional support to flood-affected families across the region.
The American Red Cross sent in relief supplies and deployed trained disaster workers who helped to manage the massive relief response from Canadian Red Cross headquarters in Ottawa, and on the ground in flood-affected communities. The American Red Cross also offered the use of its Safe and Well website to help people get in touch with their loved ones, and the Digital Operations Center gathered information from the flooded areas to make sure people got the help they needed.
LATEST COOPERATIVE EFFORT As Albertans continue to recover, the two Red Cross organizations are again working together to evaluate the response to the massive flood. The Canadian Red Cross asked the American Red Cross to help gather information about the response to help ensure the results are accurate and impartial.
The American Red Cross partnered with Canadian Red Cross evaluation personnel and helped gather information about the relief effort from Canadian volunteers, employees, and government and non-government partners. A dedicated and experienced team of American Red Cross volunteers agreed to mobilize quickly along with staff to assist with the evaluation. The volunteers’ years of experience in the United States were a valuable addition to the process.
The Canadian team surveyed affected people to learn from their experiences with the immediate relief and ongoing recovery efforts. The Canadian Red Cross is working with an independent consultant to analyze the information collected during one-on-one interviews, phone interviews and surveys. Final results are expected in the next few months.
“This was the largest disaster the Canadian Red Cross ever had to respond to,” explained Art Samaras, director, American Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Continuous Improvement. “There is a significant need to celebrate what went well and recognize the areas that need improvement.” “There has been great cooperation,” said Gary Labita, senior analyst, American Red Cross Continuous Improvement. “The people were glad to see the American Red Cross helping the people of Canada.”
The two Red Cross organizations will take the “lessons learned” and build a toolkit of practices which can benefit both countries when a disaster occurs. “We will develop a set of practices the Red Cross in both countries can use when an emergency or disaster occurs, whether it’s a single family fire or a large disaster like the flooding in Alberta,” Samaras said.