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‘As a substitute of despair, it was nearly dedication’ — Voices of the flood: Tom Sampson, CEMA chief

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Q: While you assume again to the flood of 2013, what are a number of the recollections that first come to thoughts?

A: The very first thing I consider is the group’s response. Someplace between 10 and 15 per cent of Calgarians have been straight impacted by the flood. That was about 36 communities and 85,000 Calgarians. However what was superb was that the entire group responded and wished to assist. There was a degree the place we thought we didn’t have sufficient Metropolis employees. So, the decision was put out for volunteers to come back to McMahon Stadium, and they’d be bused to affected areas. We thought possibly 400 folks would come out, nevertheless it was nearer to three,000 to 4,000.

Q: Why was the response for volunteers so giant?

A: Folks simply wished to play a job. It was paying homage to a time while you return 20 years when folks nonetheless felt like they’d neighbours who would assist if issues went mistaken. Typically in Calgary, there’s a kind of damage feeling within the air. We’re offended about this and we’re offended about that. However that each one went away on the time of the flood. I believe folks have been simply unimaginable, with an outpouring of compassion and kindness, co-operation. The army, all ranges of presidency, and plenty of companies and firms got here to our help. However what actually saved us was Albertans coming to the help of Albertans. It was each day Albertans, lined in mud, far and wide serving to one another. As a substitute of despair, it was nearly dedication.

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Volunteers wait at McMahon Stadium earlier than heading out to flood-damaged areas to assist clear up on Monday, June 24, 2013. Tijana Martin/Postmedia file
Flood volunteers McMahon Stadium
Volunteers wait to load onto transit buses at McMahon Stadium earlier than heading out to varied flood-damaged areas to assist clear up on Monday, June 24, 2013. Tijana Martin/Postmedia file

Q: Do you assume that compassion has lasted and made a distinction in our group?

A: I do. I haven’t misplaced religion that folks will rally collectively when there’s an issue. In actual fact, I believe we now have that studying. If there was one other catastrophe, we now can be higher at offering assist, not just for these impacted but in addition for all these Calgarians who need to assist. Have a look at the tool-borrowing locations that cropped up in neighbourhoods like Kensington. You may simply go in and simply give them your cellphone quantity and you can get instruments, shovels, no matter you wanted to assist with the cleanup. The Metropolis then began creating group assist centres, the place a variety of folks have been stationed — a police officer, a constructing inspector, an Enmax consultant and other people from different useful companies. When you have been impacted by the flood you can stroll in and begin getting the help you wanted.

Q: You’ve talked about previously that Calgary was higher ready for a flood in 2013 than it could have been a number of years earlier. Why is that?

A: In 2012, we got new detailed flood maps, utilizing the most recent applied sciences out there that — based mostly on the topography — offered a really clear define of what would occur if there was a one-in-25-year flood or a one-in-50-year flood or a one-in-100-year flood. At first, it appeared incredulous that flood waters may have as dramatic an influence as we have been seeing on the map. We decided to share this info with about 60 companies, starting from faculty boards to vacationer points of interest. We talked about how a possible flood may influence them and the town. We ran by way of workouts with them about what may occur. These folks then went to their organizations and ran by way of plans with their groups. That proved to be extraordinarily useful to organizations just like the Calgary Stampede and Calgary Zoo, which have been fully flooded. Issues may have been a lot worse if that’s the case many companies weren’t ready with a plan. I need to be clear: The response wasn’t excellent; we realized many, many classes. However in the event you requested me for one reminiscence, it could be concerning the folks. The Calgarians who have been there for one another in a time of utmost want.

On this particular collection of visitor columns known as Voices of the Flood, group leaders on the time of the nice flood of 2013 are sharing their recollections a decade after the catastrophe. Tom Sampson was deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Administration Company in 2013, earlier than taking up the chief position.

Tom Sampson, Chief, Calgary Emergency Management Agency,
Tom Sampson retired as chief of CEMA in November 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia

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