Our community has been evacuated twice in the past month due to wildfires and is now facing flooding. I was wondering if anyone has tips, tricks, or advice as to how to keep up morale for staff and my CAO? Mental health is so important, and while our organization is doing a great job letting staff know it is ok not to be ok I am finding the ones who are giving the most are the ones least likely to ask for help.
Also, any advice on tips to ensure my CAO is supported for business continuity would be most welcomed!
Thank you in advance,
My thoughts are with you. My niece and her family live in Edson and have evacuated twice, while planning their wedding this week, so I know it's a lot. I live in PEI and we were hit by Hurricane Fiona last year which resulted in no power for 10 days - 2 weeks and extensive damage. We work remotely, so some of our team had power when some did not. I think we just gave everyone time, knowing that everyone was dealing with Fiona in a different way. Some had damage to take care of. I don't remember any mental health or morale boosting, but I remember being allowed to deal with whatever in our own way. I spent days cleaning and hauling things to the dump. My employer allowed me, and the others, time to take care of our home lives before worrying about work life.
I really think giving people the time and space to deal with their home life is very important, without jeopardizing their jobs. For example, if they need to spend a few days at home cleaning up after the mess and getting prepared for the next, let them. Try to keep the stress from work on hold for a while.
I don't know if that helps and if your organization is in position to do that. I guess when we were off with Fiona, the whole province was shut down, so it was a little different.
I'm so sorry to hear what you and the team are going through. I worked for Strathcona County when I experienced something similar (not sure if you remember the bomb that was detonated in our parkade back in 2018). Some staff were in the building during that time. We were also displaced for several months all while trying to support our community at the same time. On our return to the office a staff member tied branches of evergreen to office doors and left pieces on our desks with a poem to staff about resiliency (evergreen are known for weathering harsh storms, etc). We repeated the same on our 1 year anniversary. I still remember this is kind and thoughtful gesture as years have passed.
I would reach out to your Director of Family and Community Services. They should have resources you can share with staff. We would send frequent reminders on supports available and tips on self care. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I have some contacts I can share who can provide the same as well as offer support and expertise for community recovery when dealing with traumatic events.
Hope that helps and thinking of you. Take care.
I reached out to our Manager, Emergency Management and he had the following response:
What a big challenge to face. This scenario is extensively studied and known that communities morale peaks during a hazard onset as everyone is filled with community spirit as they band together to solve the problem. However, as time continues, morale plummets as people are overwhelmed by the hazard. Having gone through multiple evacuations and now flood impacts would certainly stress out most communities and their administrations to the point where negative impacts could be witnessed. From a mental health perspective, having strong operations procedures can be a tremendous offset on negative mental health consequences, people are less likely to suffer stress injuries if they operated as their workplaces required, regardless of the outcomes. Secondary to that I would suggest as many team-building opportunities as possible, I've heard of command posts that bring in fitness members to guide people through stretches, go for walks together, or play a quick game for a distraction opportunity and joyful moment.
For continuity, designating the right team members to focus solely on community continuity vs the hazard response is important. We have seen tremendous resource sharing in Alberta over the last 10 years given how many hazards we have faced together. The CAO shouldn't hesitate to reach out to other communities to see where support can be provided so they or their team can get breaks and relief when needed. This year when we activated for the Fort Chipewyan wildfires creating a schedule of when staff were rotated through positions was created within the first 36 hours of response because Fort McMurray had so much experience with staff burnout throughout those responses.
Hopefully, the end is in sight for your community and your team is able to get some much needed time away and R&R!
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I can't offer much to you, but my thoughts are with you and your team during this time. I'm not sure if you have a copy of this but B117 of this manual speaks to How to Support Others without Sacrificing Yourself and you might find it helpful.
I wish I could do more.
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