CAN-ASC-5.1 Standard on Emergency Measures: Public Review Draft - 0. Introduction

0.1 Overview

This Standard provides a framework and an approach to help reduce the impact of emergencies on persons with disabilities, or people who may become vulnerable in an emergency, and to contribute to more resilient communities. The Standard contains requirements and recommendations to assist organizations and communities in identifying people who are disabled, or who may be highly susceptible to the impact of emergencies, and how to engage them and support them in the preparation, response and recovery from events, disasters, and emergencies.

0.2 Background and Canadian context

Canadians and people across the world have been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural events such as wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding. The frequency, severity and cost of catastrophic events is increasing, along with the impacts of climate change. In addition to extreme weather events and health emergencies, hazards can also include human-caused such as an incident at a special event or cyber-attack, or technological such as those involving hazardous materials, infrastructure disruptions, and utility and power failures.

The federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) governments have complementary roles in emergency management, and each jurisdiction has emergency management legislation. Emergency management in Canada is a shared responsibility where the provincial and territorial governments and local authorities and community members provide the first response to the vast majority of emergencies, particularly natural disasters. However, effective emergency management requires strengthened collaboration among all partners – all orders of government, private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and Indigenous communities.

The Emergency Management Strategy for Canada: Toward a Resilient 2030 recognizes that the impact of emergencies is not uniform across society and that a variety of factors can contribute to the level of risk facing people with disabilities and vulnerable or marginalized populations. However, there is a lack of pan-Canadian guidance and best practice with respect to emergency measures for people with disabilities and vulnerable populations.

This Standard represents a proactive approach to existing gaps in emergency measures and aims to provide guidance on the steps to take to enhance the availability and accessibility of supports for those most at-risk. This Standard complements existing national, provincial, territorial, and local policies.

0.3 Key concepts

While we are all challenged during emergency situations, people with chronic health conditions, physical and/or cognitive disabilities, and/or older adults can be more vulnerable in emergencies, and some might have more difficulties than others coping when emergencies happen. People who are at greatest risk (those with disabilities and who are vulnerable) may become less able to anticipate, cope with, resist, or recover from the impacts of an emergency and may require individual and/or prioritized support.

It is important to note that an individual is not defined as vulnerable by the nature of their vulnerability, but by their personal circumstances at the time of the emergency and this can vary in different environmental, political, cultural, and social contexts. A person’s vulnerability to an emergency is influenced by many factors, such as: age, health, physical and /or cognitive abilities, domestic relationships, economic security, social support, language, etc. Additionally, circumstances are constantly changing which coincides with individuals’ level of vulnerability, even to the same emergency or event; hence, the extent to which we can prepare for, cope with, and recover from emergencies can also change. Notably, during emergencies support systems and/or structures that exist for persons with disabilities and vulnerable persons may be fractured and unavailable.

It is important to understand and implement best practices for recognizing and including persons with disabilities and/or vulnerable persons in all phases of emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. This highlights the need for emergency services, businesses, and community sector organizations to tailor and coordinate how they work with people most at risk. However, there is little guidance on how to recognize the individuals who are disabled and/or vulnerable in different emergency situations and how to support them.

This Standard emphasizes capacity building and community resilience. It recognizes that persons with disabilities and vulnerable persons and their representatives are key stakeholders and planning partners. It considers the preparatory measures for involving this community in decisions made about providing assistance before, during and after an emergency, the planning required to engage persons with disabilities and vulnerable persons and their representatives, and the ways in which including them will contribute to their personal safety, wellbeing and resilience and help to increase understanding about the disabled community and their vulnerabilities.