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First Onsite reflects on Fort McMurray wildfire disaster

First Onsite reflects on Fort McMurray wildfire disaster
PHOTO SUBMITTED—Crews work to prevent wildfires in Alberta.

FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA.—First Onsite Property Restoration, a company that worked to assist Albertans during the historic and devastating wildfires that hit Fort McMurray in 2016, has released a survey of businesses about disaster preparedness.

First Onsite conducted the Business Preparedness Survey this spring, during pandemic-related lockdowns. The survey asked if businesses have been interrupted by disasters over the past five years. First Onsite believes the results show the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfires.

Here were some of the survey results:

– Three-in-10 Alberta businesses expressed concern about future wildfires, with B.C. following closely behind at 28 per cent. These provinces were significantly higher than the national number of 17 per cent.

– Seventy-six per cent of Alberta businesses said they would provide flexibility with work to allow employees to deal with their home and family in the event of a disaster, higher than the national number of 70 per cent.                    

– Seventy-one per cent of Alberta businesses would provide constant open lines of communication and continuous updates, again higher than the national number of 63 per cent.

– From a national perspective, more than half of businesses (55 per cent) would connect employees with outside help/support such as mental health, community or government resources during a disaster.                                   

– One-in-five Canadian businesses would offer bonuses, overtime pay and/or incentives for working through a disaster.

– One-in-10 Canadian businesses responded they have not yet considered connecting employees with outside help or developed a plan to support its workers in the event of a disaster.

The company also reflected on lessons learned from the disaster.

It stated the use of technology was a key difference between the Fort McMurray wildfire and past wildfires. Advancements such as e-permits, aerial imaging and GIS integration were critical. The company noted that communication was also key.

“The real-time exchange of information between restoration teams, government and residents was a game changer throughout the entire process,” stated Onsite in a press release. “Alberta Emergency Management Agency developed a multi-platform communications strategy to keep the public safe and in-the-know both during and after the wildfires.”

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