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Climate Change: Uncovering Invisible Vulnerabilities

A Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link

Humans are adaptable. We have adjusted to some of the harshest conditions on earth and spread across a planet full of diverse ecosystems and experiences.

Humans, as Albertans have proven, are designed to bounce back from dangerous situations. Alberta has endured several of the costliest disasters in all of Canada, including the 2013 floods and the wildfires near Fort McMurray. Our greatest strength is our support for one another—“Alberta Strong” is a slogan that embodies our urge to help each other survive and our ability to recover from whatever this province throws our way.

While we’ve been able to respond and power through disasters to date, we may still be overlooking certain vulnerabilities in our communities that need to be addressed if recovery is to be successful in the future.

What does it mean to be vulnerable?

Vulnerability is the result of greater sensitivity or exposure to harm or risk, and a reduced capacity to adapt. A community's vulnerability to climate change may be impacted by a variety of factors, such as its capacity for emergency response, the severity of weather changes predicted for the region, relative isolation, the diversity of the local economy, or the state of local infrastructure. For example, a town located beside a river is more exposed to potential annual flooding, whereas a community without an emergency response plan is more sensitive to a wildfire that necessitates an evacuation.

Vulnerable people in disaster planning

We also need to consider which people in a community are more vulnerable—during disasters, some people are more likely to be injured, face greater financial repercussions, be at risk of houselessness, or even death based on where they live, the supports available to them, or their personal health conditions or circumstances.

As weather patterns shift, vulnerable members of every Albertan community will be at risk. More heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and droughts will expose who in our communities requires more support. Health, age, income, housing, and social supports all play a role in managing vulnerability, so they must be considered when designing emergency plans.

Vulnerabilities are difficult to spot during easy times but are magnified ten-fold and reveal themselves as pain points when disasters occur.

We can build resilient communities.

Resilient communities are tough—they recognize areas and populations in need, and navigate disasters and emergencies with greater skill and forethought.

Resilience requires a holistic perspective. Strong infrastructure plays a crucial role in minimizing the damage caused by a flood. Likewise, when emergency preparedness is equitable, residents have emergency preparedness kits ready and positive coping mechanisms, as well as tailored supports, they themselves will bounce back quicker from the damage caused by the flood.

Rural Assist Registry Program - Aiding vulnerable community members in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

In Bruderheim, Alberta, the Rural Assist Registry Program is a town-driven initiative to address vulnerabilities within the community.

The registry program is currently in its pilot phase. The components of the pilot are designed to better understand and address Bruderheim's community-level vulnerabilities in two ways:

  1. Uncovering the specific kinds of vulnerabilities that exist in the community through the Bruderheim Community Vulnerability Survey

  2. Inviting residents to register with the official program—Program registrants will be placed on a list with the Town’s emergency alert system and receive alerts for events that could impact their health and safety. These alerts will provide additional resources, critical information about the event, and act as a touchpoint between those who may need additional assistance and Town Staff.

Any Bruderheim resident who would like to take part in the Registry Program, or would like to register a family member or friend can do so at the Rural Assist web page.


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