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    Our Projects

The Centre for Community Disaster Research (CCDR) is proud to be able to fund and support a number of new and innovative projects, spanning a wide array of areas. From crisis communication to family coping strategies to business continuity in a post-disaster environment, our Faculty Affiliates and Partners are advancing the field in numerous ways. Below, we are proud to highlight a few of the new and ongoing projects supported directly by the Centre.


Emergency Evacuation Protocols for Women Fleeing Abuse

Principal Investigator: Patricia Kostouros and Gaye Warthe

Over the past several years three major natural disasters have struck the province of Alberta, Slave Lake fires, High River floods and Fort McMurray fire. When a disaster strikes all community residents are asked to follow provincial emergency evacuation procedures and this often includes a move to and stay at an evacuation centre. Evacuation centres are meant for all community members and therefore, people who use an evacuation centre might know each other. Estranged family members may come across one another in an evacuation centre. In some cases, women, who have fled an abusive relationship, might come across a partner that is unsafe to them. Fleeing is no longer possible since there is no alternative. In this research, we hope to glean information about the ways in which evacuation protocols and practices impact women who are fleeing abuse and inform policy and practice at evacuation centers as well as first and second stage shelters.


Volunteering and Connectedness Following the Fort McMurray Fire

Principal Investigator: Shelley Boulianne, Joanne Minaker and Timothy J. Haney

The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 activated the largest charitable response in Canadian Red Cross post-war history, with over a million donations from Canadians and more than $136 million in funds. The Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre has sent more than 850 pallets worth of donations to the Fort McMurray. From fundraising barbeques to veterinary services, fuel and clothing to time and dollars, Albertans have demonstrated an unmatched care and concern from the residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. This timely research project will try to explain Albertans’ generosity in relation to this disaster. What is the role of social media in promoting generosity? To what degree can this generosity be explained by a spirit of care amongst Albertans? The researchers purchased space on the Alberta Survey 2016. The survey collected data in late June through early August 2016 about social media uses to follow news about the wildfire, level of concern for those displaced by the fire, as well as donating, volunteering, and other efforts to support those displaced by or fighting the wildfire. The research will help researchers and charitable organizations understand the conditions under which people are willing to help those in need.

"Does Compassion go Viral? Social Media, Caring and the Fort McMurray Wildfire"


Disaster Children's Books

Principal Investigators: Timothy J. Haney and Kathryn Wells

Timothy Haney, PhD, and former Office Manager Kathryn Wells collaborated to do an analysis of more than 30 children's books about disasters. Their analysis, which appears in the journal Contexts, finds that many children's books treat children as passive victims who are shielded from disasters. They also either omit the recovery phase of the disaster or paint it as simple, quick and uncomplicated. Wells and Haney argue for an emergent disaster children's literature that treats children as active agents, capable of devising innovative solutions for post-disaster community problems.

"D is for Disaster: Lessons of Resilience in Children's Books."


Trauma-informed Programming: Disaster Relief of Fort McMurray Wildfire

Principal Investigator: Michelle Briegel-Kranjcevic

Many families in Fort McMurray have children who have been through the traumatic experience of leaving their home, community, city, and routines due to wildfire destroying their home and community. Traumatic events cause terror, intense fear, horror, helplessness and physical stress reactions. Traumatic events are profound experiences that change the way children, adolescents and adults see themselves and their world. From the time the trauma occurred, people with post-traumatic stress experience it in all stages of their life and in their day-to-day activities — parenting, working, socializing, attending appointments and interpersonal relationships.

Funded and supported by the CCDR, Michelle Briegel-Kranjcevic and The Centre for Child Well Being (CCWB) at Mount Royal University is looking at the effect of trauma-informed programs and post-traumatic stress for children, youth, and families displaced from the Fort McMurray wildfire. The CCWB is providing a 3 stream approach for children, adolescents and parents. Each program is supported by extensive evidence and strategies around physical literacy and physical activity, the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), healing after trauma, relationship, community, and self-esteem building and overall holistic development, and therapeutic expressive arts. Throughout this project, the facilitators from the CCWB want to ensure educated approaches during programming by way of gaining knowledge and understanding of therapeutic activity programming and facilitation.

"Supporting Children and Youth Resilience After a Natural Disaster in Post Secondary Evacuation Sites: A Volunteer Support Guide for Working Children and Youth"


Evacuating Family Pets from the Fort McMurray Wildfire

Principal Investigator: Kimberly Williams

Utilizing the Quick Response Research Grant from the CCDR, Kim Williams, PhD, recruited adults (ages 18 and older) who were involved in saving family pets from the Fort Mac wildfire for short, informal interviews. She wanted to talk to anyone from official emergency management personnel and first responders to representatives from animal rescue organizations and the owners/guardians of pets affected by the evacuation of Fort McMurray.

The goal was to hear about what worked and what did not from those who were directly involved so that, together, we could help create province-wide best practices for emergency pet evacuation from community disasters.

Managing Pets During Disasters: Findings and Recommendations from the Horse River Fire, Fort McMurray, Alberta."


Peer Support and Mentoring Pilot Project for Community Service Providers and Children/Youth in Fort McMurray, Alberta: Developing Collaborative Support for Community Resilience and Disaster Recovery

Principal Investigators: Julie Drolet, Robin Cox and Caroline McDonald-Harker

The May 2016 wildfires in Fort McMurray will be recognized as among the worst natural disasters to affect the province of Alberta.  her recent disaster events, like the 2013 Southern Alberta flood, demonstrate the risks and vulnerabilities experienced by some members of society, as well as their strengths and resiliency capacities. There is an important need to further knowledge of disasters in the Canadian context in order to strengthen long-term disaster recovery efforts. Communities affected by natural disasters increase their capacity to deliver services and programs to meet human and community needs in the recovery period. Disaster-impacted individuals are also resilient and can act as mechanisms of support and powerful ‘catalysts for change’ in their communities in the post-disaster environment. However, it is not known how local communities with disaster recovery experience may contribute to resilience-building processes in partnership with other disaster-affected communities. The goal of this study is to better understand community resilience through a peer support/ mentoring pilot project between two disaster-affected communities. Utilizing a qualitative methodology, community service providers (ages 18 and older) and youth (ages 18 to 24) from High River, Alberta (which experienced the flood in 2013) and Fort McMurray, Alberta (which experienced the wildfire in 2016) will be recruited to participate in the peer support/mentoring pilot project in order to share experiences and lessons learned in a collaborative, supportive, and safe environment. This study aims to support disaster recovery processes and efforts by sharing knowledge and experience between those impacted by disaster, gaining an understanding of community resilience in post-disaster contexts; improving knowledge of peer support and mentoring in disaster recovery; and strengthening networks and linkages between community influencers, youth, and stakeholders in Alberta.

"After the Fort McMurray Wildfire, There are Significant Increases in Mental Health Symptoms in Grades 7 – 12 Students Compared to Controls."


Fort McMurray — Stories of rejuvenation from the people, the forests and the scientists

Principal investigator: Sarah Hewitt



This is a science communication project that will focus on stories of rejuvenation after the fires in Fort McMurray. Science communication is a branch of journalism that primarily tells stories from the scientist or science’s perspective. With help from the CCDR Quick Response Research Grant, I will research and tell stories about the rejuvenation of the forests around the city and how the fires impacted the scientists working in those forests.

The goal is to relate stories about how people cope with the loss of their physical surroundings in the natural world from a personal and scientific perspective and look at how they re-build in the aftermath.


Hydraulic Fracturing: Social Responses and Community Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Debra Davidson

Hydraulic fracturing activities have been expanding rapidly across the globe in recent years, and many citizens and organizations have begun to express concern about the social, environmental, and health effects of such activities. Very little social scientific research has been done, however, that could provide scientific confirmation of the nature of social impacts, and the capacity of local communities to contribute to decision-making regarding such activities. This project is intended to offer a social scientific understanding of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing in Alberta, adopting a qualitative approach that involves personal interviews. A small sample of local residents living in communities in Alberta near recent hydraulic fracturing development is being invited to share their personal perceptions, impacts and responses to hydraulic fracturing development activities in their communities.

"Evaluating the Effects of Living with Contamination From the Lens of Trauma: A Case Study of Fracking Development in Alberta, Canada."

"Emotion, Reflexivity and Social Change in the Era of Extreme Fossil Fuels."


Quick Response Research Grant Application — Fort McMurray Wildfire

The Centre for Community Disaster Research has launched a quick-response grant program to help researchers do work in the context of the recent Fort McMurray wildfire.  We are guaranteeing a one-week turnaround time on the grant application (up to 5,000) to support research, teaching initiatives, outreach programs, or policy development related to Fort McMurray, the surrounding area, and the recent wildfire. We anticipate these projects will be very early-stage and therefore do not expect a well-rounded literature review yet—simply an idea for research on this developing situation. 

All faculty members at Mount Royal (and affiliates/associates of the Centre) are eligible for the CCDR grant program, regardless of the previous affiliation with the CCDR. If you have any questions about the grant program, please contact CCDR Director, Tim Haney, at thaney@mtroyal.ca.  


We’re Ready! Neighbourhood Disaster Preparedness and Response Program Pilot Project

Principle Investigators: Eva Bogdan, University of Alberta and Stephanie Sodero, Memorial University

The We’re Ready! Community Disaster Preparedness Pilot Project was successfully implemented on May 28 and 29, 2016 in the Town of High River for an ethnic community and a geographic community. Participants rated the activities highly, which were designed to be fun and engaging to build social connections, expressing they want more of these workshops and to continue working with their communities to further develop emergency plans. Participants felt they learned a lot, including that "It is better to be together, than alone."



More Information


Increasing Preparedness in Calgary’s Youth for Natural Disasters

Principle Investigator: Katherine Boggs
Student Research Assistants: German Contreras, Courtney Stange, hundreds of Calgary grades 3 to 12 students


Spearheaded by Katherine Boggs, PhD, of the Mount Royal's Department of Earth Sciences, this project will develop two outreach programs designed to guide local high school and elementary school students towards preparing themselves and their families in case of natural disasters in the local area and when travelling. These programs are intended to guide entire communities to better preparedness through education of the youth, who will hopefully guide their families towards improved planning in case of natural disasters. The effectiveness of such an approach was demonstrated by then-10-year-old Tilley Smith who convinced her parents to evacuate the beach at Phuket, Thailand prior to the arrival of the 2004 tsunami. Tilley recognized the signs of an approaching tsunami because of a geography class two weeks prior to her family Christmas vacation. Tilley's actions saved at least 100 lives.

These two outreach programs are being modified from a class project in the MRU GEOL 1101 and GEOL 1109 courses — where MRU students develop their own models for surviving natural disasters. The high school portion will be embedded within a new Alberta Geology program that will be piloted at a Calgary high school in September, 2016 (natural disasters and preparedness will be a significant component of this course). The elementary school program is the new grade 5/6 stage which will involve comparing and contrasting the impact of the 2005 and 2013 floods on the local landscape and creating risk maps for south Calgary. These risk maps will be contributed to the local communities and CEMA to assist in disaster response planning for south Calgary.

Depicting Suffering: The Student Experience

Led by CCDR Faculty Affiliate Patricia Kostouros of Mount Royal's Department of Child Studies and Social Work, the project will help us understand the experience of students who have witnessed the suffering of others in a post-secondary classroom. This inquiry will be posed to a particular population of students; those already interested in the sociology of disaster. The main question under investigation is: what can students’ experiences of encountering the suffering of others, in their course curriculum, tell us about learning and inform teaching practice in relation to using materials that depict the suffering of others? Questions to assist in gaining this information as a starting point for interviews would be: what worked in the delivery of materials that depict suffering and what could have been done differently in a pedagogical sense?

"Depictions of Suffering in the Postsecondary Classroom."

"Depicting the Suffering of Others."


Emergency Social Services Network of Alberta

CCDR Director, Tim Haney, PhD, partnered with the Emergency Social Services Network of Alberta (ESSNA) to analyze data from a Learning Event that ESSNA held following the catastrophic 2013 Southern Alberta Flood. The purpose of the event was to learn about what worked for emergency social services staff during the flood, what failed, and what can be improved to ensure a better response should an event such as the flood ever happen again. His work with ESSNA culminated in this report, which the CCDR and ESSNA co-presented at the annual Stakeholder Summit of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) in Edmonton, November 2014.





Resilient Calgary

Local and international speakers came together to deliver a series of short, thought-provoking talks related to disaster and resilience.  This event explored compelling topics designed to provide those involved in disaster recovery and those who have been personally affected, engaging, expert insight into the unique and often devastating results of experiencing a natural disaster.



Disaster Service-Learning

Growing out of the 2013 sociology field school to New Orleans, Dr. Tim Haney collected data on students’ experiences of doing service-learning work in the context of ongoing disaster recovery. This work culminated in the book chapter “Learning from Disaster: Post-Katrina New Orleans as a Sociological Classroom.” 






New Orleans Independent Business Trends Report

The 2013 Field School in the Sociology of Disaster students, who travelled to New Orleans, eagerly partnered with the Urban Conservancy on their StayLocal! campaign, aimed at helping small, locally owned businesses survive and thrive in the post-Katrina business climate. The students helped design a survey, carried out their survey with the help of local business owners, and analyzed data for StayLocal!, culminating in this report documenting the needs, struggles, and successes of the small business community eight years after the costliest disaster in U.S. history.