While parts of the western U.S. battle wildfires, southern Alberta, Canada, is dealing with their worst floods on record.
Heavy rainfall since June 19 has led to a state of emergency in 27 states throughout the province. Numerous evacuations have taken place, including 90,000 people in Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and Drumheller.
Flooding has caused major transportation and telecommunication infrastructure damage, power outages and water contamination, and additional flood and evacuation alerts have been issued as floodwaters move east.
The Relief Operation
The Canadian Red Cross has deployed 81 employees and volunteers to support the operation to date, and is supporting 10 shelters with personnel and supplies. The organization is providing registration services in evacuation centers and has mobilized supplies including cots, hygiene kits, clean-up kits and blankets.
In another example of the longstanding partnership between the Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross, the latter has sent 10,000 cleanup kits to Canada, along with nine disaster response specialists. Of these nine, six relief specialists were deployed to Calgary to support the distribution of relief supplies, and three operations and coordination specialists were deployed to the Canadian Red Cross headquarters in Ottawa to support the team managing the response operation.
The American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross have a history of mutual disaster response support and coordination, most recently after Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. The American Red Cross has offered its Safe and Well website for the response, and has a roster of disaster response specialists on standby, available to deploy in support of the Canadian Red Cross as needed.
A Digital First in International Disaster Response
The American Red Cross has both a social engagement team and a cadre of digital volunteers who work to monitor, engage and report on social media activity surrounding specific disasters. Much of this work is carried out through the Digital Operations Center, built with the help of Dell in March 2012.
The Digital Operations Center has been used in multiple U.S. disaster responses, including the recent Oklahoma tornadoes. Information gathered through the center is used to help identify where needs on the ground are, and what those needs are.
During Hurricane Sandy, the Canadian Red Cross sent a staff member to the Digital Operations Center to lend expertise and support the social engagement team’s response. The staff member played a major role in monitoring posts, providing critical information to online communities, and identifying specific needs in affected neighborhoods. Now the American Red Cross is able to return the favor.
The Alberta flood response is the first time the Digital Operations Center is being used to provide situational reports to another Red Cross society. It is also the first time that nationally trained digital volunteers have supported an international response. By working together, the Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross will be able to gather information from the affected area, which will inform the response operation on the ground in Alberta.
For more information on the Alberta flood response, go to www.redcross.ca.