On June 20, 2013 the Highwood River reached a flow rate of 1,850 cubic metres per second, overflowing its banks and flooding the Town of High River. This triggered the evacuation of 13,400 people, 5,400 homes and 6,300 structures. Additionally 1,100 pets had to be rescued. Tragically, five lives were also lost in southern Alberta, including two people in High River.
The numbers cannot begin to describe the impact on the individuals who lost everything.
In addition to the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing and household goods, family treasures such as family photos, favourite heirlooms, and other belongings were destroyed. Lives were disrupted. All businesses were impacted. The hospital was closed and patients moved. Schools were closed. Long-term financial implications developed along with all of the accompanying challenges from severe family stress to serious health impacts. Virtually everyone in town was affected, leaving the entire community vulnerable.
The Disaster Recover Program
On June 28, 2013, Order in Council 202/2013 declared a State of Emergency existed in the Town of High River. With the declaration of a disaster, the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) moved into disaster operations mode. Alberta Regulation 51/94 of the Alberta Emergency Management Act allows the province to provide disaster recovery assistance to residents, small business, agriculture operations, and provincial and municipal governments if the event meets the criteria as outlined in the regulation. The Disaster Recovery Program is the program used to deliver this assistance.
Unfortunately, it did not take long before the victims of the flood realized that the DRP did not meet expectations. For many, the DRP process itself was re-traumatizing for those who had lost so much – in some cases everything.
Applications were being lost; supporting receipts were not attached to applications; and, it was taking a long time for application processing. Many applicants also experienced a new bureaucratic face with each DRP appointment forcing them to explain again the details of their experience. The complexity of the DRP claims process was, itself, the single most significant barrier to residents making applications.
The DRP Advocacy Committee
In November 2013, volunteers approached the Council of the Town of High River and offered to create the Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee (DRPAC). It had become evident that the DRP process was so frustrating and complex that many applicants were unable to advocate on their own behalf.
The following mandate was approved for the DRPAC by the Council of the Town of High River:
- Advocate for, coordinate, assist and support residents and businesses in their efforts to obtain funding from the various funding agencies, including the DRP.
- Provide information and communication for the general public on DRP procedures, and work on individual solutions.
The committee was also tasked to report to Town Council and Administration and identify process improvements, gaps and issues to streamline High River’s recovery.
The DRPAC Report
As documented in the attached report, the efforts of the DRPAC have resulted in a number of specific process improvements as well as resolution on individual files.
Unfortunately, despite the progress made to date, a large number of outstanding files remain as do concerns over systemic issues with the Disaster Recovery Program.
On January 25, High River Town Council released the report of the DRPAC which includes a number of specific recommendations. Read more….