Seniors’ Mitigation & Preparedness

In the spring of 2009, the Oak Bay Emergency Program partnered with student learners from Royal Roads University (RRU), Master in Disaster and Emergency Management (MA DEM) program, as part of MA DEM’s Capstone Community Engagement requirement.  In addition to completing a Community Profile for Oak Bay that identified its hazards, risks, vulnerabilities and capacities, the team also helped to plan out a proposal to apply for provincial funding for the Oak Bay Senior’s Mitigation & Preparedness Project.

The Oak Bay Emergency Program, through the District of Oak Bay and a Council Resolution, applied for and were approved for a grant through the 2009 Seniors’ Housing & Support Initiative (SHSI), Age-friendly Community Planning Grant. The proposal for the Seniors’ Mitigation & Preparedness Project (Project) assisted the Oak Bay Emergency Program to assess the strengths and vulnerabilities of its senior population in the event of a major emergency or large-scale disaster and enabled them to identify tools and resources to assist in increasing resilience.

Many Oak Bay seniors are resourceful, physically able and might not meet the criteria for vulnerable or at-risk individuals.1 Others, however, are in seniors’ care facilities or rely on outside assistance to maintain their independence in their home, apartment or condominium. Oak Bay seniors live within a diverse assortment of residential settings that range from living independently within their own home to residing in a complex care centre. 

Lessons Learned

Need to engage administration, staff and community-based organizations is key.

Many complexes that house seniors (and seniors themselves) are not aware of local emergency management resources that could assist them in implementing strategies to reduce their vulnerability and increase their level of preparedness.  By engaging our seniors, seniors facilities, community-based seniors organizations and the general public the Project helped to increase participation in preparedness activities and improved the individual resilience within our seniors population.

Information needs to be redundant and come from trusted sources.

Dennis Mileti has been a long time advocate for incorporating the ‘human element’ or social science research into preparedness messaging. His work has found that regardless of the audience, that the key factor that drives public action-taking is information. This includes information that is both ‘received’ and information that is ‘observed’ and that more information equaled more actions.  This initiative resulted in the implementation of a comprehensive, multi-layered, redundant public education approach throughout the community.