Community based pre-disaster recovery planning

By: Tara Stroup, Emergency Program Officer, City of Port Coquitlam

In December of 2014 the City of Port Coquitlam embarked on the endeavor of pre-disaster recovery planning.  This process was started to determine recovery awareness in order to provide a framework for business continuity planning, insight into collaborative networking, and to review the benefits of cost recovery initiatives.   A report outlining what the process would entail was submitted.  A committee was struck and was comprised of local organizations, partnering non-government organizations (NGO’s), community groups, members of the public, university students and provincial ministry representatives.

Two meetings have occurred thus far which have provided an understanding of the participants’ roles, what resources are available and what the concerns are for the three different phases of recovery.  The three phases of recovery were determined as follows: short (immediate needs), medium (up to two years) and long term recovery (two years and beyond).  The initial meeting provided insight into the groups thoughts on recovery by taking part in a brainstorming session.

Brainstorming Session – Meeting #1

Short Term: (immediate needs)

  • Reduce suffering
  • Bring back to a normal state as quickly as possible
  • Have resources in order to respond efficiently
  • Provide basic needs (water, food, fuel)
  • Determine communication abilities

Medium Term (up to 2 years of recovery – items deemed important)

  • Evaluate & eliminate economic losses
  • Get the community back to where it was pre-disaster
  • Provide psycho-social support to residents and first responders
  • Implement temporary and permanent repair of infrastructure
  • Provide resources and inventory for re-construction
  • Identify critical resources
  • Marketing of the City

Long Term (2 years and beyond – items deemed important)

  • Evacuate and eliminate economic losses
  • Get the community back to where it was pre-disaster
  • Provide psycho-social support to residents and first responders
  • Implement temporary and permanent repair of infrastructure
  • Look at resources and inventory for reconstruction
  • Identify critical resources
  • Marketing of the City
  • Look at ways to enhance the community
  • Build back better opportunities
  • Review of community vision
  • Re-assess community status
  • Possible changes to bylaws and zoning
  • Sustainability measures
  • Economic recovery plan in place
  • Flexibility (population displacement, investment utilization, construction support)
  • Establishing and adapting to the new normal

Scenario Based – Meeting #2

This meeting  used a scenario based on a 7.3M earthquake that occurs in the Metro Vancouver area 30km west of Vancouver.  Questions asked of committee members prior to the meeting consisted of:

Is there a plan in place?
What are we (and aren’t we) prepared for?
What kind of resources will be needed?
What kind of help will I need and from whom?

Internal perspectives for the City included a review of critical infrastructure, daycare services, and ESS response support.  Items deemed critical were comprised of water, paper forms, staffing and communication issues. There was further conversation over long-term planning considerations.

External City perspectives included debris management, usage and commandeering of fuel, liability coverage, water/sewer capabilities, communication challenges, the use and need for portables along with plan preparedness and awareness.  There were immediate concerns for emergency response capabilities including rapid damage assessments of residential homes and infrastructure. The topic of psycho-social impacts to the community and the well-being of residents were also discussed.

The local youth association felt comfortable with their level of awareness and with the resource acquisition of emergency preparedness supplies.  We learned through the briefing that the group had the ability to move their members by bus and that the fleet of buses on hand were stocked full of resources. One item of concern however was emotional support for their members.

Considerations for residents will include: family re-unification planning, the use of a cell phone to contact loved ones, prioritizing an out-of-province contact, and an awareness of the 72-hour provisions and timelines established by the province.  Another concern noted was the availability of resources through local businesses in the community for day-to-day living following an event.

Non-government organizations stated that they would be working alongside the province to perform needs assessments.  Service items they would provide included: help with fundraising, counselling, staffing a call center, managing walk-in volunteers and taking part in an “un-met needs” committee.   One organization noted that they already had equipment in place at different sites in various locations and that they could provide a stocked emergency response unit.

The need for acute care hospitals, along with providing for home health and residential care clients will be a priority for health organizations.  Concerns included staffing, facility assessments, road clearing for vendors in regards to the collection of supplies, and ensuring the flow of information from reception centres.  Plans are in place for the first 72 hours of a disaster but generators and electrical supply may be a concern after this time.

Where do we go from here?

At this time a draft recovery plan has been completed that embodies the thoughts and considerations of committee members, but the work itself is not complete. Comprehensive, tangible outcomes need to be completed in order to validate the time and efforts of committee members.

From the initial concept of recovery planning, two main projects will be started:  the City will be inviting the business community to a workshop which is being conducted to determine the benefits of third party networking, and will compile information for a business recovery directory.  This workshop will include information on business continuity planning, and will provide tools to help start the process for the business community.

The City has also taken part as a contributing member to a critical infrastructure tool initiative.  This process included a thorough review of critical resources based on interdependencies that were both internal and external.  This work was completed and a report has been provided outlining needs based on operational capacities and resources.  A list of items have now been identified that will have a higher profile for future purchases and initiatives.


Tara Stroup is the Emergency Program Officer for the City of Port Coquitlam.  She is a member of the South-West Regional Emergency Planning Committee and is Chair of the South-West Regional Emergency Social Services Committee (Metro-Vancouver).  Contact: