Disaster governance: An investigation of the 2013 flood in High River, Alberta
Numerous jurisdictions in England and Wales have found that flooding issues are effectively addressed through systems-approaches that incorporate environmental and socio-political dimensions, as well as more integrated approaches, such as inclusion of, and collaboration among, key stakeholders. Moving towards such approaches requires institutional, rather than technological, innovation, as well as a cultural shift since culture is one of the main factors for disaster losses. Culture shapes disaster governance, consisting of norms, organizational and institutional actors, and practices designed to reduce the impacts and losses associated with disasters.
Alberta experienced major flooding in 2013, the most costly natural disaster in the history of Canada. Alberta is home to the largest oil sand operations in the world, has had the strongest performing economy in Canada in recent decades, and historically focused on large-infrastructure mitigation approaches. The estimated $6 billion cost of the disaster, excluding mitigation expenses, and a growing sensitivity to the implications of climate variability, has triggered reassessment of costly structural solutions. The continued increase in losses from disaster events in Canada and around the world have revealed the need to incorporate nonstructural adjustments that address social factors, such as risk perception, historical development paths, and governance processes, all of which play important roles in reducing disaster risks and losses and enhancing resilience.
This case study explores disaster governance and its decision-making processes with regard to Alberta’s 2013 floods by asking the following: 1. Which mechanisms guided decision-makers at various levels in choosing among various flood management practices?; and 2.How do various levels of governance interact to shape flood management? This research aims to address the dearth of literature on contextual factors affecting disaster governance.