Pathways to Preparedness is a new project being launched by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) and funded by the Canadian Red Cross to help improve flood and wildfire awareness across the Cariboo..
The intent behind the project is to educate area residents about the risks and be better prepared in the event of being faced with an emergency situation. The project will consist of online surveys, going out and speaking with the community, focus groups, and online and printed information.
“It is important for everyone to be prepared for wildfires and floods, to know what gaps they have and to be taking action to be ready,” said Stephanie Masun, Manager of Emergency Program Services, in a press release from the CRD, on Thursday May 11.
Tim Conrad, of lead project agency Butterfly Effect Communications, said they will be attending community events across the Cariboo over the next few months.
“It could be farmers’ markets. I’m going to a crib night, a bingo night, I think. So just getting out to talk to people in the community and see them in their communities and get an understanding of where they’re at, what kind of barriers are there for them to get a little bit more prepared,” he said. “And helping us to understand what those gaps are so that we can hopefully fill them in.”
It can be very challenging once people are in the middle of an emergency to know what to do, as there is so much information coming at them from many different sources, Conrad said. Preparedness is something people can do before they get to the point where they are responding.
“We want to try to understand where we can help people and move them in that way so that they’re not feeling as stressed when and if that moment happens that they’re having to respond.”
By speaking with people who have firsthand experience of going through an emergency situation, he hopes to be able to capture and share these stories with others and help them to understand.
“I’ve definitely heard that from people, where they have said ‘Hey, if I’d known, I would have done this, or I would have grabbed this, or I would have trimmed my trees or got rid of the bark mulch that’s up against my house.’ So there’s a lot of different things that you quite often hear from those who have experienced an emergency firsthand.”
One of the challenges the CRD faces is what they call a barrier in getting people to believe it could happen to them, Conrad said, adding that the area seems to be in a regular cycle of challenging weather-related events. There is no way to tell if it is going to impact people, but there is always the possibility.
“Right now in Alberta, we’re seeing a lot of that happening with people who felt the same way: that it won’t happen here.”
He noted that many things done to prepare for wildfires can be of benefit in daily life. Bark mulch piled up against the house could be ignited by a tossed cigarette butt or sparks from a nearby source.
There are a number of things homeowners can do that will help protect their property in the event of wildfires or floods and which are simple and do not take away from the property. It will help out in the long run, and these are the types of things the project will focus on in the second stage later in the year.
The first of two main surveys will be available shortly, with a second coming out in the fall. In between will there be a series of shorter “pulp” surveys focused on specific topics.
Conrad said that as they ask questions there will be more questions raised to ask later on.
There will also be focus groups held throughout the Cariboo. These will allow them to understand in more depth the reasons behind the answers given by residents so that the CRD and other agencies can help plan things a little better.
Conrad will have a booth at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market on Friday, May 19 and will be out in Forest Grove and Canim Lake on Saturday, May 20. The following weekend he will be in the 108 Mile Ranch and Interlakes areas.
Visit www.cariboord.ca/pathways for more information.