Canada is not immune to emergencies, whether it's wildfires, floods, blizzards or pandemics. Because of that, the Canadian Red Cross wants to help Canadians get through any type of crisis.
The agency's Psychological First Aid (PFA), launched officially in September 2020, is about taking care of yourself when you have experienced stress, crisis or trauma, sometimes related to a weather emergency, and then providing support for family, friends and community when they are having difficulty coping during and after.
"It just makes you stop and think about how important self-care is. If we can't care for ourselves, then we're not able to care for others. That's vitally important," said Sally Moore, a 37-year volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross.
Floodwaters force families from their homes across New Brunswick. Photo: Allie Murchison/Canadian Red Cross.
RED CROSS OFFERS COPING, PREVENTION STRATEGIES
Part of dealing with any type of emergency is the preparation beforehand, as being ready for it in advance allows people to adapt to a situation as it unfolds, giving them better coping skills, Moore said.
Preparing the home, and speaking to friends and family about possible emergencies ahead of time will aid people during and after a crisis.
"Getting to know the neighbours, so you know who in your neighbourhood owns a generator, for example, or in a rural community, who owns the tractor," said Moore.
Red Cross' Psychological First Aid is available online in two courses: Self-care and caring for others.
"Basically the program is about prevention and coping strategies. You probably get every type of stress in a weather event," said Moore.
In both courses, people learn the impact of stress, trauma, and grief while developing useful tools for handling difficult situations. The online courses are quick, accessible and practical, equipping people with the necessary skills to use in daily life.
Canadian Red Cross responds to house fire after ice storm in Canada. Photo: Canadian Red Cross.
Also a trainer with the agency's Psychological First Aid, Moore noted the program will help with the daily stresses including those induced by winter weather, such as shovelling snow or driving on slippery roads, and increase empathy and care for others.
"Maybe they will go and shovel their neighbour's driveway, if they're having trouble, or a car is stuck and they will help someone in a weather event. That's what we're hoping for," said Moore.
"That sense of community, helping each other out, is what Psychological First Aid does for people. Everyone needs someone now."
COVID-19 ADDS TO STRESSES
The financial and psychological toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people has just reinforced the importance of the two courses, the Red Cross trainer said.
Red Cross volunteers meet those affected by flooding in Rigaud, where dozens of families have been evacuated, and many roads and houses flooded and isolated. Photo: Joe Alvoeiro / Canadian Red Cross.
"They're not only going to contribute to your safety and your family's safety, but the well-being of your entire community," said Moore. "If you got your family looked after and yourself looked after, then you can help the neighbours."
She continued, "Before we may not have thought about it too much, but definitely a good aspect of COVID-19 is that it has brought people together."
Thumbnail courtesy of Allie Murchison/Canadian Red Cross.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2020. The Weather Network has re-published the article for Emergency Preparedness Week, which runs from May 1-7, 2022.