Emergency preparedness and resilience

By Mia Dauvergne, Senior Policy and Research Advisor, Public Safety Canada

In the course of our lives, we inevitably face unforeseen adverse situations and strive to adapt and sustain ourselves with the goal of returning to a level of functioning similar to, or better than, that which existed before the event in the shortest amount of time possible. It is not always possible or realistic to be equipped for every eventuality and so we must often improvise.

Work currently underway at Public Safety Canada aims to improve our understanding of the factors that make some communities more or less “resilient” in how they  marshal resources in the face  of a crisis. To drive this work forward, we are drawing on expert advice, academic literature, and research on resilience, as well as working to add to the evidence base. To this end, Public Safety Canada partnered with Defence Research and Development Canada as well as Statistics Canada to conduct the Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience (SEPR), a voluntary survey of Canadians that collected information covering ten key topic organizations and groups (e.g., sports, hobby clubs, service clubs, and cultural groups), volunteering, and political engagement.

  1. Risk awareness –potential risks and hazards Canadians believe their community might experience (e.g., power outage, industrial accident, terrorist attack) and where they would turn to for information or guidance in the event of an emergency or crisis.
  1. Prior experience with a major emergency or crisis –Canadians were asked about their personal experience with a major emergency; the nature of the emergency; the impact of the emergency on daily life; who they assisted or received help from during or immediately with other people.
  1. Protective and precautionary behaviours– precautions Canadians have taken to make their home safer (e.g., installing fire extinguishers, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors; and knowing how to shut off the home’s water, gas, electricity), and measures they have taken to prepare for an emergency (e.g., developing an emergency plan; having an emergency supply kit; having alternative water, heat and electricity supplies; and training in emergency response techniques).
  1. Civic engagement –participation in various organizations and groups (e.g., sports, hobby clubs, service clubs, and cultural groups), volunteering, and political engagement.
  2. Social networks –the number of family and friends living in the same community; the socio- demographic make-up of friendship circles and neighbourhoods; and the number of people Canadians can turn to for support in the event of a major emergency.
  1. Social cohesion and community belonging– the degree to which Canadians feel a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood, community, province, and Canada, and the ways in which their ethnicity or culture might affect interactions with other people.
  1. Trust–the degree of trust in others, particularly those in the neighbourhood, and the level of confidence in the ability of various institutions to provide effective assistance in an emergency or crisis.
  1. Self-efficacy – Canadians were asked how they view their ability to resolve problems and react in an emergency.
  1. Perceived health and activity limitations – general health and any limitations in daily activities caused by a long-term health condition or problem.
  1. Socio-demographics –age; immigrant status, Aboriginal status, population group and visible minority status, religion and religiosity, language, education, vehicle and home ownership, and household income.

SEPR was conducted by telephone between January and June 2014. Analysis of the survey data is currently underway with first results expected in Fall 2015. Information from SEPR will provide valuable context to the risks associated with distinct areas of public safety (e.g., natural disasters, threats to security, industrial accidents) and how certain factors might interact to build community resilience. Results from the survey will be shared with federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal governments responsible for strengthening community resilience to emergencies along with first responders and frontline workers who may use the information to:

  •  Establish priorities;
  •  Target outreach services and improve the coordination and delivery of programs and services;
  •  Identify gaps in preparedness for certain communities and/or population groups who may be at particular risk;
  •  Aid in the development of emergency preparedness toolkits and plans;
  •  Develop vulnerability maps to inform emergency response situations; and
  •  Inform emergency management and community safety policy and programs related to the integrated functions of prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Information from SEPR will also contribute to discussions on Canada’s  National  Disaster  Mitigation Strategy and the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Platform consists of a broad assembly of interdisciplinary stakeholders who share an interest in reducing the risks posed disasters, established as part of the government of Canada’s  commitment  to  deliver  on  the  United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s Hyogo Framework for Action.

Ultimately, Public  Safety  Canada’s  mission  is  to  build a safe and resilient Canada. It is our hope that by measuring community resilience, we will be better able to support communities and share the responsibility to keep hazards from becoming disasters.

Adapted from Public Safety Canada’s “Survey of  Emergency Preparedness and Resilience (SEPR) in Canada: Discussion Guide, 2012.

Bio: Mia Dauvergne is a Senior Policy and Research Advisor at Public Safety Canada. She works in close collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada and Statistics Canada in the management of the Survey of Emergency Preparedness and Resilience.