Research Projects

Evacuation Decisions, Displacement, and Network Activation During the 2013 Calgary Flood

   Principal Investigator:

  • Timothy Haney

   Research Assistants:

  • Priya Kaila (Project Manager)
  • Grace Ajele
  • Angela Laughton
  • Travis Milnes
  • Morah Mackinnon


  •  SSHRC Insight Grant ($102,774)

 This project will reveal how families and households make difficult decisions during a disaster, what factors (gender/household composition, physical vulnerability, race/ethnicity/nativity, income/wealth, religion, etc.) predict timely evacuation, and how people mobilize their social networks to secure needed resources (housing, clothing, childcare, and so forth) during evacuation and displacement. To do this, we are currently collecting a unique set of survey data from residents of Calgary's evacuated and flooded neighbourhoods. It will follow the experiences of evacuated households through the temporal arc of the disaster: warning, evacuation, displacement, and in some cases, return and rebuilding, to help us better understand how households mobilize both economic and social resources in a time of need. Therefore, this research will help researchers and planners understand which households need more attention during the warning, evacuation, displacement, and return stages of the disaster. Beyond that, the research will reveal inter-neighbourhood socioeconomic differences in evacuation and return patterns that will demonstrate how the flood differentially impacted Calgary’s neighbourhoods.

Emergency managers are increasingly concerned with the geography of need during catastrophic events. "Evacuation Decisions, Displacement, and Network Activation During the 2013 Calgary Flood" will help these emergency professionals to understand which groups are most likely to evacuate in advance of the flood, which groups need additional assistance locating temporary housing, childcare, or other resources, and finally, which demographic groups need the most assistance to rebuild and recovery. It will also advance academic discussions about how social networks are mobilized during non-routine times.

The project employs five undergraduate research assistants from Mount Royal University, who are heavily involved in survey construction, sampling, survey administration, data entry, analysis, and dissemination of findings.

Given increasing worldwide vulnerability to natural hazards, this research illuminates how social units respond to environmental risk and catastrophe, thereby providing a lens into how communities may prepare themselves for the effects of climate change.

The Effects of Environmental Disasters on the Family: Communicating, Coping, and Caring among Families Impacted by the 2013 High River Alberta Floods

   Principal Investigator:

  • Caroline McDonald-Harker


  • Timothy Haney

   Research Assistants:

  • Alex Christison (Project Manager)
  • Emilie Bassi
  • Kathryn Wells
  • Imogene Roulson
  • Kaylea Schwengler
  • Sylvia Ulatowski
  • Zachary Cox


  • SSHRC Partnership Development Grant ($165,336)
  • Institute for Environmental Sustainability Grant ($19,800)

Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker, Principal Investigator, in collaboration with co-researcher Dr. Timothy Haney, are currently conducting a research study on the 2013 High River, Alberta floods. This research study explores family members' struggles, difficulties, coping strategies, and needs resulting from the 2013 floods in the community of High River, Alberta. It examines communication, coping, and caring in family life post-disaster in order to determine how family life is altered by the disaster context, how experiencing a disaster influences family interactions and relations, and how families manage and function during and after a disaster. This research specifically examines the following research questions and areas of investigation:

  1. How do disasters impact couple/spousal relationships in the family? Specific attention will be given to communication, decision-making, coping, marital support, and marital conflict and dispute resolution among couples/spouses post-disaster.
  2. How do disasters impact parent-child relationships in the family? Specific attention will be given to parental support of children, parental awareness of children's responses to disasters, parental communication with children, differences in parent-child relationships based on parental gender, the ways that mothers and fathers perceive their roles as parents, and parent-child conflict and dispute resolution post-disaster.
  3. How do disasters impact the division of paid and unpaid labour in the family? Specific attention will be given to decisions about who performs the paid and unpaid work in the family, ways of dealing with job loss, decisions about finding new employment, work performed inside and outside the home based on gender roles, and changing mothering and fathering roles in post-disaster situations.
  4. How do disasters impact the family-school life, family-school dynamic, and family-school relationship? Specific attention will be given to the post-disaster role and involvement of parents in their school-aged children's educational responsibilities at home, their children's academic performance, achievement, and success, and their involvement in their children's schools and activities.
  5. What are the specific family issues and problems post-disaster? Specific attention will be given to family trauma, family distress, and family difficulties post-floods including substance abuse, infidelity, domestic abuse, child abuse, and divorce.
  6. How are immigrant families impacted by disasters? Specific attention will be given to the ways in which the floods have affected immigrant family members, their communications and interactions within their family as well as within the wider community, and their adaptation and integration within the community post-disaster.
  7. What are the primary needs of the family post-disaster? How can the family be supported and assisted post-disaster?

This study uses a qualitative research approach, which consists of 10 focus group interviews, and 60 face-to-face in-depth interviews with parents who have children and who have been impacted by the 2013 High River, Alberta floods. This research study consists of a highly involved, cooperative, and equitable collaboration with several key community partners in High River, Alberta including:

  1. Bow Valley College, High River Campus;
  2. Foothills School Division;
  3. Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Board;
  4. Foothills Community Immigrant Services; and
  5. Rowan House Emergency Shelter.

The central purpose and immediate goal of the research is to use the research findings and results to influence, shape, and structure the programs, services, and resources that local community organizations offer to families residing in the community of High River who have been impacted by the floods. The long term goal of the research is to provide a useful tool to assist families in other communities who have experienced major disasters, or who may in the future experience major disasters in Canada or internationally to best prepare for, respond to, cope, and prevent environmental disasters.