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Canadian Geographic: Fighting floods and fires while a pandemic rages on

April 14, 2020 — 

As Canadian Geographic reports:

Spring floods and summer forest fires are facts of life in some parts of Canada. Normally, emergency services in high-risk areas are well prepared to deal with the natural disasters common to their landscapes.

But as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency agencies are stretched to their limits.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the federal government is ready to mobilize up to 24,000 Canadian troops to help during the pandemic, whether that be in the form of humanitarian aid or natural disaster response. Two Royal Canadian Navy crews have been ordered to sequester for two weeks before heading out to sea to then wait for a call.

“This option gives us the best chance of avoiding a community spread within one of the ships should someone have contracted the virus at the last minute due to natural family interactions,” says Rear-Admiral Craig Baines, Maritime Atlantic Forces commander.

How long will troops remain in what is now effectively a deployment? That depends on the pandemic’s trajectory — and what happens in flood-and-fire season…

Experts like Emdad Haque, a professor at the University of Manitoba’s Natural Resources Institute, say COVID-19 has so far offered valuable lessons that can be applied to preparing for and responding to natural disasters — for example, identifying risks well ahead of time and preparing accordingly, rather than waiting for an extreme environmental event to kick off

According to Haque, there are also lessons to be learned in how information is delivered and disseminated to the public at large. “Transparency is critical to successfully prepare and respond to floods or forest fires so that communities — both the general public and the politicians in charge — can take necessary actions at the right time to reduce disaster loss.”

Haque says communities must implement “effective institutional frameworks” to plan for environmental risks and disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes policies, procedures and financial backing for potential situations.

Read the full story here.



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