Alberta flood outreach continues: Going door to door

Topics: Alberta, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
Diana Coulter | May 22, 2014

On doorsteps once submerged by floodwaters, Alberta residents and the Canadian Red Cross now trade advice and hugs for those feeling anxious this spring. (Photo:  © 2014 J. Keith Howie / Paragon Corporation Inc.)

Recently, the Canadian Red Cross is fanning out in Calgary, High River, Canmore and many other communities to help families acquire the knowledge, plans and tools to cope in any emergency. In some cases, the Red Cross is also collaborating with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other agencies to offer emotional support to those experiencing stress. Next week from May 20 to 24, volunteers plan to go door to door again in High River. Having already reached about 1,700 homes there earlier in April, they hope to chat with 5,000 families in total.

Red Cross staff and volunteers have been reaching out on doorsteps since the first day of the June 2013 floods. And as the spring thaw starts this year, the Red Cross is back in neighbourhoods helping people feel better prepared.

Last month, in the Calgary neighbourhoods of Rideau and Roxboro, the Red Cross was asked by the local community association to canvas the community and provide families with personal emergency preparedness information and psychological support from AHS.

Calgary resident Carl Brown was happy to see volunteers in Red Cross vests knocking on his neighbours’ doors. “Definitely, everyone should be thinking about being prepared. I grew up in Winnipeg where they certainly know floods, so when I heard last year that we might be in the same boat, I took all my photo albums, Christmas and other precious stuff upstairs, and got ready to leave,” said Brown. “But I know a lot of others weren’t so lucky, and the Red Cross have been so great helping out.”

An older neighbour, hearing Brown’s comments, added: “Yes, I lost everything in my house. The only thing I managed to rescue was my dog. I was basically homeless for 10 months and just moved home two weeks ago. Come to think of it, everything is new in there now, except me!”

Steve Petrovich paddled a canoe down his street trying to rescue a few things last year. “I wouldn’t want to go through that again, even though the floods brought our community closer. The Red Cross has been so great helping around here. I know people really want to feel better prepared.”

At another home, an older couple was busy loading a trailer with basement items bound for storage, and had built platforms to pile furniture on, in case of future flooding.

“We are planning now because we have to sleep at night. You have to be proactive, not reactive. You just can’t live with the worry,” the homeowner explained to a Red Cross outreach worker. “But it’s so nice to see that we’re not forgotten, thank you,” she added while examining a Red Cross “Are You Ready?” brochure with preparedness checklist. “These are all good things to think about.”

Another Calgary senior, whose home is still being repaired, drove to Roxboro when she heard about the April outreach. “She knew we would be here, and she just really needed to talk,” said a Red Cross caseworker. “She lost her husband after the flood, and is dealing with repairs, insurance, everything alone. We talked for 40 minutes and she’s probably coming to the office later to see what we can do now.”

A later outreach, dubbed “High River Cares,” saw organizations, including the Red Cross, spend days chatting with High River citizens who were amongst the hardest hit by last year’s floods.

“It is completely natural for people to be feeling lost, confused, angry, defeated or overwhelmed,” noted organizers. “Ten months is not a long time after such a traumatic event...We are all in this together and this initiative will give us an opportunity to touch base with as many citizens as possible and ensure that no one is being left behind.”

High River resident Rick Palin said: “People here are still terribly stressed. You can see them just walking along the street sometimes and they will break down and cry.

“It’s a real tough go because you put your life into making a home.  And to have that all taken away from you, it’s really hard to get back on your feet.”

Palin added that people really appreciate the assistance still being offered by Red Cross. “All I’m going to say is the Red Cross has been very fast and efficient around here. They have been so great.”

For information on preparing yourself and your family for emergencies, visit www.redcross.ca/ready.

You can also learn more about emergency kits by using the Canadian Red Cross Preparedness Calculator on Facebook.