New course helps First Nations to lead own emergency response

Topics: Saskatchewan, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada, Indigenous Communities
November 09, 2020

from behind a woman sits at a table looking at a binderIt provides a sense of control in a situation that is out of control. That’s how Josephine Greyeyes describes the value of the first of­fering of the Canadian Red Cross Emergency Social Services (ESS) course in Saskatche­wan in the fall of 2019.
The skills learned during the week-long training course held in Regina helped the Emergency Response Coordinator for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band Health Services to revamp the organization’s emergency plan.
“It was important to understand the planning phase, the preparing phase, the mitigation and all risks associated, and what resources we have available to us and how we are best able to help our communities,” she said.
The goal of the course is to help First Nation communities improve their level of prepared­ness to act quickly during disasters.
“We are helping them to build a plan for their community so they will have something they can use if there is an emergency situation,” said John Halliday, Red Cross Emergency Management Coordinator for North West Saskatchewan, and course facilitator.
“At the end of the course, they have a plan in place that can be activated immediately if there is an emergency – they don’t have to wait for the government or another agency to start a response,” he said.
The approximately half dozen participants from Saskatchewan First Nations learned about the emergency planning process, strategies to protect their communities, how to identify the effects of a disaster on a community and recognize the needs of those affected by a disaster, as well as factors to be considered when recovering from a disaster.
For Greyeyes, this training will ensure her organization is better prepared to deal with a crisis than it was in July 2015, when forest fires resulted in the evacuation of all six Lac La Ronge Indian Band communities. It was the largest evacuation in the province’s history with approximately 13,000 forced from their homes and 5,000 of them taken to shelters in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and other centres.
In step with the ESS training, Greyeyes, also a Red Cross volunteer, is actively recruiting new Red Cross Emergency Response Team members in her communities. 
“I think the best way to go about dealing with situations in our communities is to build capacity before an emergency ever happens. I think we are on the right track within our organization and within our communities,” she explained.

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Canadian Red Cross 2019-2020 Saskatchewan Report Back to the Community
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