July 23rd, 2024

Canadian Red Cross prepared to respond to disaster

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on May 26, 2022.

The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs hosted the Canadian Red Cross during their meeting on Thursday.
Canadian Red Cross’ provincial manager for the emergency management team, Mark Holzer, gave an overview of the organization and current responses.
CRC offers emergency management, which is one of the organization’s biggest programs due the significant volunteer population.
“This is focusing on the cycle of emergency management, which is planning and preparedness and the ability to respond and provide support to those communities as well as looking into the long-term recovery operations that are necessary for communities to return to their pre-disaster state,” said Holzer.
Holzer says the big piece is responding every three hours in Canada.
“You might ask yourself, there’s not big events every three hours in Canada and that is true,” he said.
“But one of the programs we do offer is through our personal disaster assistance program.”
Between 2020 and 2021, CRC has helped more than 1,200 Albertans and more than 33,000 across the country through the personal disaster assistance program and CRC is in the midst of planning a disaster preparedness and risk reduction program that would be supporting communities where they identify ways to make themselves more prepared and resilient.
“So in the event that if something was to happen in the community, fire or flood, then the road to recovery is hopefully a little bit easier for folks,” he said.
Community Health and Wellness programs are also offered, with a big emphasis on the health equipment and loan (HELP) Program.
CRC has many health depots throughout the province.
“Where people in the community are able to come to our offices and borrow health equipment – walkers, wheelchairs, assisted aids for the bathroom,” he said. “Not necessarily hopefully items that people might need long term, but they’re able to access those for the short term where they might need that assistance.”
Prevention and safety is taught through first-aid training and the opioid harm-reduction program are also available.
International operations looks into what the Red Cross in other countries offer that may be different from Canada.
“We support other countries as well by deploying resources (for) both workforce as well as materials as needed,” said Holzer.
With the complications of COVID-19, the focus was on the health and safety of everyone, said Holzer.
“It did result in us needing to adjust how we would approach providing support and assistance,” he said. “And so we did shift to a bit of a virtual model to be able to support these 13,000 who were evacuated (from the Fort McMurray floods) as well. Another unique and interesting thing about this event is the significant number of these people were also impacted by the 2016 wildfires. So, in addition to dealing with a flood event, they’re still in their recovery following the wildfire and all of the factors that come into that.”
The organization were looking at ways to support people in communities throughout the pandemic.
Holzer said there was the isolation of seniors in large cities, food security in vulnerable populations, lack of medical facilities in Indigenous communities and supporting patient overflow in hospitals as well.
“So in the early days providing financial support, but also the guidance and expertise as we began developing COVID protocols,” he said.
Locally, CRC has provided support for travellers returning to Canada, providing COVID-19 testing at port-of-entry sites, working with Correction Services Canada for epidemic prevention and control and launching a Friendly Call program.
In Alberta, CRC has recruited, trained and engaged more than 1300 volunteers across all lines of service.

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