Disasters and Community Resilience: Urban Lessons from “Peripheral” Wildfire Communities

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Disasters and Community Resilience: Urban Lessons from Peripheral Wildfire Communities. Ivan Townshend, University of Lethbridge Judith Kulig, University of Lethbridge Bill Reimer, Concordia University Dana Edge, Queens University Nancy Lightfoot, Laurentian University Ruralwildfire.ca - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Disasters and Community Resilience:Urban Lessons from Peripheral Wildfire CommunitiesIvan Townshend, University of LethbridgeJudith Kulig, University of LethbridgeBill Reimer, Concordia UniversityDana Edge, Queens UniversityNancy Lightfoot, Laurentian University


IGU Urban CommissionAugust 2011Canterbury, UK1BackgroundNatural hazards widespread and increasing in number and intensity Blizzards Earthquakes Floods Hail Icebergs, sea ice and fog Landslides and snow avalanches Tornadoes Tsunamis and storm surges Volcanic eruptionsForest Fire etc.

BackgroundWildfire disasters increasing in number and intensity (Walter 2004)Fire disasters linked to:Climate changeInsect infestation (e.g. pine beetle)Human habitat (e.g. residential development in wildland-urban interface zones, urban periphery, etc.)BackgroundImpact of Wildfires in Canada:From 1995 2005 over 700,000 people and over 250 communities have been threatened by wildfires (Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Canada, 2005)Urban and Rural impacts

11,231 fires in LFDB 1959-1999

BackgroundRecent Events in Alberta:Slave Lake Fire (2011):Over 40% of the town destroyedEvacuationConfusion, anger, despair, etc.

BackgroundSignificant Human Impacts:Health issuesPhysical healthMental healthCommunity healthSignificant Monetary and Social Costs:E.g. $9-12 million cost of health impacts due to poor air quality related to major wildfires) (Rittmaster, Adamowicz, Amiro & Pelletier, 2006)Social disruption, stress, community viability, loss of livelihoods, etc.

Key Geographical IssuesVariability in disaster impacts Variability in physical / mental health & well beingVariability in coping strategiesVariability in community capacity to deal with the issuesVariability in ability to rebuild, move forward, etc.Geographies of ResiliencyHow do we better understand this link between disasters (e.g. Wildfires, Tsunami, Flood, Riots) and RESILIENCY

Linking Resiliency & DisastersDisaster & insurance agencies use resiliency as a framework to help re-build communitiesCanadian & US governments using resiliency as policy frameworks (especially post-Katrina / post-911)Resiliency as a Social Process and a Community Process

Mallard Fire, 1999

8On the Question of ResiliencyWhat is resiliency?How can we measure perceptions of resiliency?How does perceived resiliency differ within and between communities?How is resiliency linked to health, community engagement, etc?How can we better understand the social / community dynamics that explain or promote resiliency, or perceived resiliency?What are the links with PSOC / Cohesion etc.9Resiliency and CohesionNumerous studies and conceptual frameworks draw attention to resiliency-cohesion linkages (or some features of each).Still inconsistencies in definitions / measurements etc. E.g. resiliency or specialized features of resiliency (e.g. engagement)Cohesion vs SOC etc. (sometimes conflated) Few have captured the social or community basis of resiliency. But there is progress in this area

10Figure 1. Updated Community Resiliency Model Kulig et al (2007)

Resiliency as a Social ProcessThe first part, interactions as a collective unit, refers to concepts such as getting along, the ability to cope with change and networks. When people get along, they use networks and when people have networks they enhance their ability to get along and create a positive mental outlook. When interactions as a collective unit have been established, the second component of the model is realized, which is expression of a sense of community. This is the latest revision of the model of community resiliency and represents the first time that quantitative data were used to create the revision. Inherent within the community resiliency process is the expression of a sense of community, evident in community pride and spirit and operationalized as sense of belonging to ones community. Interestingly, the urban neighbourhood had the lowest reported sense of belonging, which supports the first premise of the community resiliency model. We found higher proportion of self-reported physician-diagnosed depression and subsequent utilization of health care services for mental diseases in the urban neighbourhood compared with the two rural communities. The quantitative findings provide tentative evidence of a linkage between community resiliency and health status. Sense of belonging and community pride are therefore both results of a sense of community rather than sense of belonging leading to a sense of community. The entire process of community resiliency influences health status.The combination of the interactions of a collective unit and expression of a sense of community leads to community cohesiveness. This includes how the community copes with divisions and its ability to deal with change in a positive way, how it problem-solves and whether or not visionary leadership is present. All of these characteristics are foundations for community action. The more cohesive the community, the more intense the community action. A feedback loop is created from the community action to further enhance the interactions as a collective unit, how they express a sense of community and how they will then act as the situation continues.Please see: Kulig, J., Edge, D., & Joyce, B. (2008). Understanding Community Resiliency in Rural Communities through Multimethod Research, Journal of Rural and Community Development. 3(3) (online). Kulig, J., Edge, D., Joyce, B. (2008). Community Resiliency as a Measure of Collective Health Status: Perspectives from Rural Communities Canadian Journal of Nursing Research. 40(4), 92-110.

11The 2003 McLure Fire,

Mallard Fire, 1999,La Ronge Saskatchewan

3 yr SSHRC project: Resiliency in Rural Settlements that have experienced Wildfires: Implications for Disaster Management and MitigationMcLure Fire, Barriere BC, 2003Our Study Builds Upon these IdeasBarriere and surrounding communities (total population: 7059) McLure Fire: manmade, part of the 2003 BC Firestorm 26420 hectares burnt, 31.1 + 8.2 million in total, over 80 structures lostLa Ronge and LLRIB and Northern Village of Air Ronge (total pop: 5700) Mallard Fire: lightning strike, 1999, hectares burnt 10 homes burntBoth areas/communities include First Nations12Study CommunitiesBarriere, BCPop approx 7000in valley(McLure Fire 2003)>3800 evacuatedHHLD survey n=202

La Ronge, SK Pop approx 6000(Mallard Fire 1999)>1000 evacuatedHHLD survey n=111

Controls: Coaldale and RMHHHLD survey n=188


Mixed Methods StudyQualitative Interviews (n = 57) Community Profiles Household Survey (over 200 items, evacuation info, resources used, health, community, social capital, cohesion, resilience etc. )Sampling strategy:Electronic phone bookGeocoding by P Codes GIS overlays 1km x 1 km n = 313 in participating communities n = 145 in control communities

McLure Fire, BC14Measuring Perceived ResilienceDevelop an index based on existing conceptual / theoretical / empirical work.Index should include different facets of resilience, etc.

+ other approaches15Original 15 Item Perceived Resiliency Scale Scale = 15 - 75

16Original Scale (15 items)

17Modified Perceived Resiliency Scale (11 Items)Health itemsRemovedModified following external review of item validityScale = 11 - 55

18Modified Perceived Resiliency Scale (11 Items)Scale AnalysisScale = 11 - 55n=492, (Barriere, La Ronge, Control)

19Structure (Subscales) of the Index of Perceived Community Resiliency

24.2%20.9%12.8%(58%)1. Leadership and Empowerment 2. Community Engagement

3. Non-Adverse Geography

Min communality = 0.4Peripherality?Measuring CohesionBuckners Index of CohesionRobust 18-item index (5 point Likert scale).Replicated in a number of studies (e.g. Wilkinson 2007, Townshend 2002, etc).Includes multiple facets of cohesion (e.g. Neighboring, PSOC, Attachment, etc.)Useful measure of cohesion as a socio-spatial concept.

21Buckners 18 Item Cohesion Index


2. Nhood Attraction

3. Neighboring

Structure (subscales) of Cohesion.

(Buckner 1988, Wilkinson 2007 etc.)22Empirical Structure (subscales) of Cohesion from our Study


2. Nhood Attraction

3. Neighboring

23.8%18.5%14.5%(57%)Structure very similar to Buckner 1998, Wilkinson 2007 etc.Perceived Resilience and Cohesion amongst Individuals1. Leadership and Empowerment 2. Community Engagement

3. Non-Adverse Geography

IPCR Cohesion1. PSOC

2. Nhood Attraction

3. Neighboring

?linkages24Significant Correlation Bonds1. Leadership and Empowerment 2. Community Engagement

3. Non-Adverse Geography

IPCR Cohesion1. PSOC

2. Nhood Attraction

3. Neighboring

. r, p Engagement > ResiliencyHow does perceived resilience translate into actual resilience?Problems of governance and coordination from afar, etc.

31Urban Lessons to be Learned from the peripheryCommunity (rural or urban) matters for resilience(e.g. PSOC > Engagement > Resilience) Urban neighbourhoods and communities also vulnerable to disasters / evacuation, etc.Social processes are key to resilience / recoveryLocal knowledge / involvement is paramount We need intra-urban studies of resiliency potential

Sharing our Findings

Technical reports on the household surveyLessons Learned BookletsDigital Stories on youtube.com: search for McLure WildfireRuralwildfire.ca

1:3:25 ReportFree distribution of materials, liaison with First Nations Emergency services, the two provincial forestry/firefighting services and the two provincial e