News Story

One Year After the Floods — Are We Prepared?

On 20 June 2013, severe floods devastated the lands and lives of residents in High River, Alberta. The torrents arrived with little notice and many people lost their homes and endured long periods of displacement and need. Community and church help lifted some of the burdens people faced; some property and personal treasures will never be recovered.

Among other responders, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided supplies — including more than 1,000 hygiene and food kits assembled by Church members in Lethbridge — and manpower to the beleaguered flood victims. Numerous trucks loaded with cleaning kits, generators, protective clothing, pumps, respirators and tools rolled into the town. Additional food and water were also supplied.

An experienced disaster response team coordinated as many as 1,350 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers who responded to families’ specific needs each day. This year Mormon Helping Hands volunteers have already begun to assist residents with landscaping and restoration work.

High River resident Melanie Collison said, “Almost a year ago, there was lots of attention given to Mormon Helping Hands for the wonderful help they gave us in High River after our town was flooded. The attention has fallen off, but the help from local Latter-day Saint members continues and I very much appreciate it.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enables an efficient network of leaders and workers to assist during community disasters. Local Church bishops’ storehouses prepare for disaster response by stocking equipment, water, hygiene kits and food that can be provided to the needy when requested by local Church leaders. Each Church congregation has a disaster preparedness plan that includes interfacing with community leaders when emergencies occur.

Cam Murray, the bishops’ storehouse field manager in Lethbridge, Alberta, says that it is the practice of the Church to work with community resources when responding to a large crisis such as the High River floods of 2013. “There are a number of excellent organizations out there that assisted in the response,” says Murray. “Many community and national organizations united together for a good cause. Disasters often bring out the best in people.”

Murray also noted that when the Church responds to an emergency, “we always act under the direction of civic leaders. While our local priesthood leaders direct our people, we use them to work with the organization of the civic leaders.”    

Even 12 months after High River’s 2013 disaster, mountain snowpack is high and warm rains could release floodwaters again. Relying on last year’s lessons, emergency response planning includes several disaster scenarios.

“Experience is a good teacher,” says Murray. “While you can never properly plan for a disaster, you can anticipate and manage as the needs come along. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Whether another flood presents itself or not, planning and preparation will continue. “As individuals and families, we prepare to care for ourselves as if there is an emergency,” explained Justin Price, the bishops’ storehouse emergency communications specialist in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Generally speaking, to be prepared, we need to have 72-hour survival kits for each home.” Mr. Price advises families to look ahead: “In flood areas, prepare by getting your valuables above the flood level.”

On the website, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers preparedness training for all community members on day-to-day living, budgeting, job preparedness, disaster preparedness and other needs.

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