The City of Windsor has had its share of flooding over the past year.  Last years’ rainfall, in October of 2016, overwhelmed the municipalities’ systems.  And again last month, the City experienced flooding due to weather systems that dumped hundreds of millimeters of precipitation resulting in 1000’s of flooded basements.  Only this time, the flooding was much more severe.  The track of the system correlated very well to the locations of the calls; the system had moved in from the southwest and tracked northeast over the City.

The calls started coming into the City’s 311 Call Centre shortly after the downpour began on August 29th, and continued for days.  By the end of the following weekend, over 6300 calls had been received by the Centre from homeowners with flooded basements.

Samaritans Purse Canada (SPC) deployed a Rapid Response Assessment Team to Windsor to determine the extent of the damage.  As a member of the NGO Alliance of Ontario, Samaritans Purse Canada’s focus has been on recovery and, in this case, the gutting of flood-impacted basements and the emotional and spiritual well-being of the homeowners – many who had just their most prized family possessions.  Initial contact was made to the City’s Community EM Coordinators’ office.  We were then linked to the City’s identified Liaison Officer for continued communications and coordination.

SPC deployed one of their three Regionally-based Disaster Relief Units.  These self-contained Units allow the international Christian disaster relief organiza

tion to move quickly and efficiently into place.  Along with their Site Leadership Team, local church volunteers – in this case, from Parkwood Gospel Temple and other churches – and high schools, we began reaching out to the affected neighbourhoods.

Whole neighbourhoods were impacted by this storm.  On quiet city streets, every driveway in whole neighbourhoods had debris outside for pickup.  What was disconcerting though, was the number of driveways that didn’t have anything out yet.  As the days passed, calls began coming into our mobile operations office, requesting assistance with removing appliances, moldy debris, washing and mold spraying.  Even three weeks after the storm, SPC was still receiving calls for assistance from homeowners who just couldn’t manage on their own.

The City of Windsor were strong advocates for SPC during this recovery phase.  They promoted our work on the City’s website, briefed their Call Centre


and City Council on our activities and allowed us access to key City departments that were also involved with the clean-up.  Communications were key.  Early on, SPC’s Communication Services were linked directly to the City’s Communications department to ensure consistent key messaging was delivered in a timely manner across both of our platforms.

SPC provided valued assistance to homeowners in Windsor, along with the efforts provided by the Mennonite Disaster Service and the Christian Reformed Church’s World Renew group for rebuilding efforts.  It was unfortunate that we had to come back to the City after being there only eleven months earlier, but lessons are always learned on how we can become better at what we do.  And so it was with this recovery deployment.

SPC is continuing to strengthen both its Lighthouse Church Program and its Disaster Relief Program across the country and its through responses like the one to Windsor that enable us to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable impacted residents who have been impacted by emergencies and disasters.

Steve Elliott

Disaster Response Coordinator | Central Canada


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