Wildfires in BC: Health effects and system implications in a global perspective

IMG_5149

Did you miss this webinar? You can watch and listen to the presentation on Webex!

The CCGHR Working Group on the Health Impacts of Climate Change is pleased to invite you to the sixth event in our webinar series!

Date: Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT (3 PM ET)

Where: WebEx

Presenters

John Lavery, Executive Director of Health Emergency Management British Columbia. Mr. Lavery is also an active member of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Operations Centre Network, co-chairs multiple Canadian federal/provincial/territorial committees, and is a Canadian co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Border Alliance.

Sarah Henderson, Associate Professor (Partner) at The University of British Columbia and Senior Scientist, Environmental Health Services, BC Centre for Disease Control.

Organizer

Nicole Spence, Coordinator with Health Emergency Management BC and a member of the CCGHR Working Group on the Health Impacts of Climate Change.

How to Join

Register here to receive webinar connection details >

Summary

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense in British Columbia (BC) and across Canada. In 2017, over 1,300 fires displaced 65,000 residents, including 880 patients and 700 health system staff, costing the province over $560 million. Severe smoke pollution lasted for several weeks during both 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons and affected the entire population of the province, with episodes of the worst air quality that most people living in Canada will ever experience. The short-term health impacts of wildfire smoke exposure are relatively well-understood, but the long-term impacts of (1) long exposure episodes and/or (2) repeated annual exposures are not well understood. This webinar will explore potential implications of climate-related severe events from an emergency management perspective, including impacts to the health care system in BC and lessons learned from consecutive years of a provincial state of emergency, as well as through an environmental health lens by reviewing evidence from BC, placing it in the context of the international literature, and reviewing the critical evidence gaps that researchers in BC and elsewhere are racing to fill.

Biographies

John Lavery is the Executive Director of Health Emergency Management British Columbia (HEMBC), a program that provides emergency management leadership and support to the health system in British Columbia, Canada, including health authorities, and the Ministry of Health. Mr. Lavery’s HEMBC program directly supports hospitals and a wide range of other health facilities and programs to prepare, respond, and recover from emergency events.

As the Director of the Office of Disaster Management with the Ministry of Health in Manitoba, Mr. Lavery worked with local, provincial, and national partners to inform, implement, and lead a comprehensive, integrated health emergency management program. In 2007, Mr. Lavery became the Executive Director of the Emergency Management Unit at the Ministry of Health in British Columbia where he directed the development of provincial health emergency management policies, standards, and programs, and led health emergency management initiatives for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

Since assuming the responsibility of Executive Director of HEMBC in 2013, he and his program have supported the readiness of British Columbia’s health system to effectively manage a variety of emergency events, including public health-focused emergencies, flooding, and unprecedented wildfires. Mr. Lavery is an active member of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Operations Centre Network, co-chairs multiple Canadian federal/provincial/territorial committees, and is a Canadian co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Border Alliance.

Sarah Henderson started her career as an environmental engineer (BASc, UBC, 2000), working on pollution abatement and control. She switched her focus to environmental epidemiology (PhD, UBC, 2009) when she first became interested in the public health consequences of engineering decisions. As the Senior Environmental Health Scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, she leads a program of applied research and surveillance to support evidence-based policy for the province. Her work spans a wide range of topics, including air pollution from all provincially relevant sources (wildfire smoke, residential wood smoke, industry, road dust, shipping, and traffic), extreme weather events, radon gas, food safety, water quality, and exposures managed by the Drug and Poison Information Centre (DPIC). Sarah is an international expert on the health effects of wildfire smoke and has been studying this topic in BC and around the world for more than 15 years. 

Nicole Spence is a member of the CCGHR Working Group on the Health Impacts of Climate Change and our volunteer organizer for this webinar. She is a Coordinator with Health Emergency Management BC, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority that provides emergency management leadership and support to the health authorities in BC, Canada.

Suggested readings

Paul Kovacs, Alice Cullingford, Mike Flannigan, and Lilia Yumagulova. (2018). Canada’s Burning Question : An in-deph feature on the progress made and the callenges remaining for fire management in Canada. HazNet.

Tara K. McGee, Amy Christianson, Kyla Mottershead, and Henok Asfaw. (2018). Advice for emergency managers from the First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership. HazNet.

Report and findings of the BC Flood and Wildfire. (2018). Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia