Flooding Preparedness and the Role of the Government Operations Centre (GOC)
- Public Safety Canada is mandated to keep Canadians safe from a range of risks such as natural disasters, crime, and terrorism – “all hazards”.
- The Government Operations Centre (GOC), on behalf of the Government of Canada, supports federal response coordination for emergency events affecting the national interest by working in close collaboration with federal organizations, non-governmental organizations and provincial emergency management partners.
- In preparation for the cyclical events season, the GOC works with partners to develop initial risk assessments of areas susceptible to floods and wildfires. These are point in time assessments of course, and the weather can radically change risks quickly. The analysis for the 2020 Flood season is ongoing. This assessment is based on data collected from various key stakeholders such as ECCC, NRCan, ISC, and provincial emergency management offices.
- As you will all recall, the 2019 Flood Season was very demanding and had widespread impacts across Canada. The Provinces of ON, QC, and NB requested federal assistance due to historically high flood waters.
- Support from the federal government may be sought through a Request for Assistance (RFA), recognizing that use of the Canadian Armed Forces is generally to be considered a measure of last resort after provinces and municipalities have exhausted all means at their disposal to deal with an event.
- Herculean efforts in the name of managing emergencies are being undertaken again and again in this Country. And the Federal government always stands ready to support our citizens’ safety and well-being when we are needed, and I just want to underscore that team work and collaboration, and the collective use of our capabilities across Canada, is the only “magic bullet” in these instances.
2020 Flood Season
GOC Roles and Responsibilities
Public Safety Canada:
- Public Safety Canada is mandated to keep Canadians safe from a range of risks such as natural disasters, crime, and terrorism.
- The Government Operations Centre (GOC) is mandated, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to lead and support federal response coordination for emergency events affecting the national interest; working in close collaboration with PS regional offices, federal organizations, non-governmental organizations and provincial emergency management partners.
Canadian Armed Forces:
- May only be called upon after all departments have expended all applicable resources; and
- May provide limited self-sustaining support to front-line relief operations, excluding social crises and welfare checks.
Environment and Climate Change Canada:
- Provide specialized weather forecasts analysis of hydrological data, briefings and scientific expertise in advance of flood season
Indigenous Services Canada:
- Prepared to facilitate the coordination of operations between FPT partners and flood affected First Nations
- Prepared to assist host communities with the delivery of services for First Nation evacuees
Natural Resources Canada:
- Prepared to provide flood extent maps and analysis
2019 Flood Season
The Provinces of ON, QC, and NB requested federal assistance due to historically high flood waters. Requests for Federal Assistance (RFAs) were for evacuations; support to vulnerable people; wellness checks; water patrols; mitigation efforts to protect property and infrastructure (e.g. sandbagging); sourcing and deployment of flood control assets; and planning and coordination of relief efforts.
Throughout the 2019 Flood Season, the Continuous Improvement of Federal Event Response program, housed within the GOC, collected observations on best practices and areas for improvement.
- RFAs should generally be seen as a ‘last resort’ once provincial resources are fully committed. Submission of anticipatory RFAs by some Provinces before floodwaters arrived, provided more time to position CAF assets. This early engagement was more collaborative and reduced damages, and the negative impacts felt by the community.
- Centralized coordination across municipalities by provinces can produce: (1) a more systematic working relationship with CAF and other federal organizations, with clear expectations of federal and provincial roles and responsibilities, (2) more successful outcomes, and (3) more favourable conditions for the withdrawal of Federal assets from the community.
- Whole of government reporting and situational awareness products generated by the GOC, particularly the data maps and access to satellite imagery, is critical for decision makers and helped local responders.
- Strong relationships between the GOC, CAF and other federal organizations, and the embedding of subject matter experts into the GOC (e.g. Canadian Coast Guard Hydrological Engineers to assist with flood analysis and forecasting), all facilitated effective interdepartmental coordination, which should continue.
Areas for improvement
- RFA Process: In some provinces, there were discrepancies in the application of the RFA process, resulting in the RFAs being more ad hoc and inconsistent. This illustrates a need to formalize & better communicate the RFA protocol. Steps should include early engagement of Public Safety to provide a challenge function, for coordination, and to ensure timely availability of federal capabilities. Provincial requests should define the type of emergencies or challenge they are facing, the resources that have already been exhausted, impacts on communities, and the relief required from the Government of Canada. This will better support RFA decision-making.
- Leveraging the private sector, NGOs and volunteer organizations, could bolster capacity to respond to events. There is a need to improve the identification, understanding, and use of assets other than those of the CAF. The CAF incurred approximately $7 million in costs during the 2019 Flood Season.
- Partnerships & Communication: A greater understanding of roles and responsibilities of respective federal institutions is required among all partners. The improved use of common language and standardized critical information requirements would alleviate miscommunication, foster collaboration, and enhance situational awareness for decision-making purposes. To ensure greater consistency and alignment of information, inter-provincial comparisons on best practices for EM reporting purposes is required. Further F/P/T collaboration and engagement is needed.
Preparedness Activities – 2020 Flood Season
- In response to the lessons identified in 2019, and as part of the preparedness planning process for the 2020 Spring Flood Season, the GOC has improved: (1) RFA guidelines, (2) geospatial support process,
(3) information requirements framework, and (4) identification of partners’ key capabilities. These items were discussed with other government organizations and have been included in the Government of Canada Cyclical Event Response Plan.
- Updates to the RFA guidelines emphasize the importance of early provincial EMO engagement with the GOC.
- PS Regional Offices (ROs) will coordinate provincial requests in the regions for federal capabilities other than those of the CAF.
- Should a formal RFA become necessary after confirming provincial resources are exhausted, the GOC and/or PS RO will work with the Province to shape an effects-based RFA letter, including disengagement criteria.
- Led by Public Safety Canada, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the National Risk Profile is a strategic-level risk and capability assessment that uses scientific evidence and stakeholder input to identify and assess risks. In Fall 2020, this whole-of-government initiative will focus on consolidating federal risk information on floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. In subsequent years, it will use an updated All-Hazards Risk Assessment (AHRA) methodology, scientific evidence, and whole-of-society stakeholder input to develop a strategic-level picture of risks and capability gaps across the country to inform prioritization and decision- making.
- The significant increases in flood costs, including the rise in Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements flood expenditures, demonstrate the need to advance coordinated whole-of-government action to reduce immediate financial and physical vulnerability to flooding and increase the resilience of Canadian society from future flood risk.
- Public Safety’s Flood Ready public awareness campaign provides information to Canadians on the actions to take to mitigate, prepare for and recover from a flood.
Impact of COVID-19
- Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the GOC is in contact with key partners, including Indigenous Services Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and Public Safety Regional Offices, to discuss potential flood response in the context of COVID-19. The public health measures currently in place in the country are likely to have an impact on flood response, including community-led efforts, evacuations, sheltering, and availability of federal assets. A whole-of-government effort is ongoing to conduct planning and risk assessment activities for potential regions at risk of being confronted with dealing with both flooding and the presence of COVID-19 in their communities.
2020 Flood Season Update No. 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – 2020 PRELIMINARY Spring Flooding Risk Assessment
The information currently available for the 2020 Flood season is preliminary; assessments of potential risks of flooding are ongoing. This assessment is based on data collected from various key stakeholders such as ECCC, NRCan, ISC, and provincial emergency management offices. Federal and provincial forecasters are developing models based on snow accumulation, soil saturation, temperatures, precipitation, and river ice conditions, to identify areas where significant flooding could occur. In addition to those indicators, inclement weather could affect the potential for flooding.
DISCLAIMER: This risk assessment is based on flood indicators such as snow water equivalency, soil saturation, and river ice conditions. However, other flood indicators such as temperature and precipitation are less predictable in a long-term forecast and could affect the overall risk assessment. An update of this risk assessment will be provided in the GOC Daily Operations Brief, starting 6 Apr 2020
MB - Southern Manitoba, particularly the Red River (RR) basin, presents a High risk of spring flooding due to near record high level soil moisture in the
U.S. portion of the RR watershed. There is a High risk of moderate flooding on the Pembina River and the Roseau River, as both basins have above normal soil moisture.
BC - The South Interior and southern Peace regions are at high risk of flooding due to above normal wet precipitation and higher than average snowpack.
NB – St. John River valley and its tributaries are at Medium risk of ice jam flooding above the Mactaquac Dam, and fluvial flooding below. Water levels are greatly influenced by the high tides in the Bay of Fundy.
QC – Conditions leading to flooding are in place due to very high water levels in the 5 Great Lakes, as well as Lake St-Pierre, Lake St-Louis and the St. Lawrence River. Areas at Medium risk are Central and Eastern Quebec
ON – Conditions leading to flooding along the shores of the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River are in place, since water levels in most of the Great Lakes have been above normal and near/above historical extremes for several months, and total precipitation over these areas has been above normal for at least 6 months.
2020 Flood Season Update No. 1 – Flood Risk Map
This map is displaying the 2020 preliminary spring flooding risk assessment across Canada. Areas at high risk include British Columbia and Manitoba. Areas at medium risk include Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. The map also shows First Nations communities at medium risk. These communities are Attawapiskat 91A, Kashechewan and Moose Factory in Ontario, as well as Roseau River in Manitoba and Metepenagiag in New Brunswick.
|2020 PRELIMINARY Risk Assessment
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