Climate Change Effects on Emergency Management
Climate change is a topical subject, how does it affect emergency management? We want to share some data and explore steps that can be taken to help emergency managers defend against this risk.
Weather-Related Disaster Trends
We only need to look to an industry devoted to quantifying weather-related damage to get an idea of the impact that climate change is already having on our planet. Taking Canada as an example, we are seeing a growing trend of an increase of insured catastrophic losses.
Insured damage for severe weather events across Canada reached $2.1 billion last year , according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ). According to Munich Reinsurance Company, 2021’s global losses from natural disasters hit $355 billion.
Graph source: IBC 2022
Comparing Canada to the global trends we can easily see the long-term average of total annual damage is increasing.
Graph Source: GFDRR
Looking at the disaster statistics from the USA, we are seeing the same trend of growing disaster costs related to climate change.
Graph source: Climate Central
Regardless of your personal opinion on climate change, there is clear recorded evidence that we are living during a time of change and these risks are increasing.
Climate Change Impacts on Resources
As the scale, scope, and frequency of these weather-related disasters increases, we need to make plans to respond. Good emergency managers know that planning and mitigation will greatly assist in their ability to respond to any emergency that occurs.
As municipalities exhaust their local and mutual aid resources, emergency authorities are increasingly needing to rely on armed forces for assistance. In Canada for example, fitness exams for the Canadian Armed Forces now include multiple sandbag tests, which are used during fortifications and responses to natural disasters.
Good preparation and resource planning requires routine training and exercises. D4H Personnel & Training specifically targets this requirement by managing the administration of personnel, qualifications, training, attendance, and availability.
What changes to your drills/exercises can be made to help your team prepare for weather-related disasters?
Bowen shared some interesting awareness, that human living patterns are actually moving to increase these risks.
While there is heavy focus on the frequency and intensity of events, we need to be equally highlighting that people are moving at an accelerated rate into some of the most vulnerable areas for extreme weather. It is imperative that we improve awareness around people better preparing their home or business in the face of inevitable.
What else can we do as emergency managers to raise awareness, preparedness, and education about the hazards that our residents are choosing to live in? Check out this recent discussion on how to foster community resilience in emergency management:
Climate Change Impacts on Personnel
Another important consideration is our actual team members. During a response, it’s not usually blue skies and rainbows. Specifically, what are you using to make sure your team is safe during a climate-related disaster response? We can start with a simple mobile check-in procedure.
Until automation invites robotic relief, response teams use humans. We must remember to meet the needs of response team personnel. Ultimately, we entrust our professional members to self-monitor and self-regulate, but during a disaster, adrenaline kicks into high gear and it is standard to see team members push themselves beyond what should be expected.
The D4H Incident Management platform is useful to help your team deliver their most effective response and ensure they are taking their required rest.
One of the most critical responsibilities of any command staff in ICS is communication. The most pressing question during a disaster response is often “what happened during the last operational period?” (for example the past 8 hours). With a structured communication system you can easily filter the logs by any time period and even filter by module/tag. With a centralized communication system transfer of command is easier and team members can quickly assess situational awareness. Here’s a quick look at how filtering incident updates and sharing by email works in D4H Incident Management:
While software tools can assist our teams in communicating better in the field, climate change also puts extra stress on our people, so we also need to look at methods to help them. One of the easiest methods is simply promoting self-care, especially with rest. This is not a technical task but absolutely essential if we want to ensure we can get long-term productivity from team members.
Having the Operations Section set reminders on behalf of teams is probably one of the easiest ways to help accomplish this goal. The team ‘check-in’ timers could double as rest breaks and situation updates. More importantly your team can perform even better knowing someone is taking care of them! How do you minimize burn-out during your responses?
As we see the growing need for a climate response strategy, it’s a good time to review your exercises, and drills to find any additional skills that may help mitigate this growing concern. It is clear that as the size of disasters grow, so too will our response requirements, what methods do you have in place to help manage that scale? Sure the Incident Command System (ICS) can theoretically scale as needed, but do you have the tools in place to manage that communication?
About the author
For over seven years, Clinton Boyda has led a regional municipal agency in Alberta, Canada, as the Director of Emergency Management (DEM). Representing ten municipalities, Clinton has seen how important a tool like D4H is to help Emergency Managers keep organized during all phases of a disaster. Also, as a Search and Rescue First Responder, he has seen the value D4H provides to manage certifications, callouts, and incident reports. What effects of the changing climate have impacted your emergency management?