National report reveals Canada's disaster vulnerabilities, risk areas

The release of Canada's inaugural national disaster risk assessment this month couldn't have been timelier with Alberta's expanding and damaging wildfires.

On May 11, the federal government unveiled the country's first national-level disaster risk assessment, highlighting the catastrophe threats facing Canada and the current measures and resources in its emergency management systems to address them. The inaugural report addressed three hazards: Earthquakes, wildland fires, and floods, along with a section on the effects of pandemics such as COVID-19.

SEE ALSO: Is Canada prone to a devastating earthquake? Answer isn't so simple

The goal of the assessment is to help Canadians understand the disaster risks they face so they can prepare for, manage and recover from emergencies, assist all emergency management partners make informed decisions to reduce, prepare for and respond to disasters, and aid in identifying strengths and weaknesses nationally to lessen the impacts of disasters for all Canadians.

To address the problems posed by the various disasters, millions of dollars have been bookmarked in the 2023 federal budget.

Alberta wildfire/Submitted
Alberta wildfire/Submitted

(Shoshi Soni/Submitted)

“When we understand the risks we face, we can better protect ourselves and our communities from them. The national risk profile is a foundational piece of emergency preparedness work that draws upon scientific evidence and stakeholder perspectives to support decision-making that will strengthen Canada’s emergency management and resiliency to climate-related risks and disasters," said Bill Blair, Canada's Emergency Preparedness Minister, in a press release.

The analysis outlined several impacts and findings about earthquakes, wildland fires and floods in Canada.


  • Expected direct losses from a large earthquake could be as high as $75 billion

  • The risks from earthquakes are increasing due to population growth and rising number of people and property density in urban areas, as well as a growing reliance on infrastructure systems

  • The national risk profile identified gaps in Canada's earthquake resilience including seismic retrofit programs to make existing buildings stronger and more resistant; access to public information; the number of Canadians underinsured or uninsured for earthquake damages; and challenges in the emergency management system and limited access to services in remote, isolated and Indigenous communities


Wildland fires

  • The area burned annually by wildland fires has more than doubled since the 1970s. It is predicted that, by 2100, the area burned could double again

  • The risk of wildland fires will likely increase over time because climate change is creating longer and more intense fire seasons

  • Current trends point to more people and infrastructure in harm's way in the event of a wildland fire

  • The report identified the following gaps in Canada's wildland fire resilience including low public awareness and preventive action to protect homes, properties, and neighbourhoods; gaps in scientific knowledge and wildland fire management tools and technologies; inclusion of Indigenous peoples and diverse Indigenous knowledge in wildland fire management and response; and structural resilience to wildland fires, especially in high-risk areas

Red Cross Appeal: Alberta Wildfires 2023
Red Cross Appeal: Alberta Wildfires 2023


  • The risks from flood events will increase over time due to the impacts of climate change on weather patterns and the increasing number of people living in urban areas

  • The threat profile identified the following gaps in Canada's flood resilience including co-ordination among governments to manage flood risk; lack of flood risk information that impacts the management of evacuations; low awareness among Canadians of their personal flood risk; and lack of sustained investment in a national flood insurance arrangement and in countrywide infrastructure measures for prevention, like planting trees to prevent erosion

B.C. flooding/Jaclyn Whittal
B.C. flooding/Jaclyn Whittal

(Jaclyn Whittal/The Weather Network)

The next component to the national risk profile will focus on heat events, hurricanes and space weather. The federal government stated these three hazards were selected given their high impacts on public health, critical infrastructure, the economy, and ecosystems.

The full report can be viewed here.

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