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COVID-19, civil disobedience and dam break potental 'high-risk' disasters in Calgary: CEMA

The 2022 Status of Emergency Preparedness in Calgary report highlights civil disobedience as a potential future disaster in the city and says the risk is considered high.

Following years of unrest and protests surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and public health mandates, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) suggests societal issues have increased threat levels.

The city's emergency management committee will meet Wednesday when the informational report will be presented in council chambers.

CEMA says, in its mid-2022 assessment, the three new potential disasters that are considered high-risk include civil disobedience, the COVID-19 pandemic and an Elbow River dam break.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and numerous instances of civil disobedience over the last few years has resulted in a reassessment of their risk," reads the 2022 report on the study conducted in July 2022.

A total of 16 high-risk events are highlighted in the report including natural, technological, and human-induced disasters.

Calgary's potential 16 high-risk events, according to CEMA, include:


  • Blizzard                            
  • Extreme cold
  • Flood (Bow River)
  • Flood (Elbow River)
  • Heavy rainfall
  • Hydrological drought
  • Pandemic
  • Tornado
  • Winter storm


  • Critical infrastructure failure
  • Dam breach (Bow River)
  • Dam breach (Elbow River)
  • Rail incident


  • Civil disobedience
  • Hostage incident
  • Mass casualty attack 

In addition to the high risk events, CEMA also assessed 49 other potential hazards, including a bomb threat incident, an aircraft incident, or pump station failure, that were deemed to be medium, low, or very low risk. 


In CEMA's latest report, the agency notes that the city's flood mitigation efforts of June 2022 were successful in taking pre-emptive measures to protect "tens of millions of dollars" of property and critical infrastructure.

A forecasted 100 mm to 150 mm of precipitation prompted the city to declare a State of Local Emergency as partner agencies and first responders set up sandbags and berms as a precaution.

Unexpected high wind took down power lines and trees, which added to increased service calls, but thankfully the actual rainfall was much lower than expected and much of the precipitation fell as snow.

"The combined and collective impacts of riverway and dam mitigation measures ensure Calgary is resilient to flood conditions today and ready to adapt to new conditions in the future," the report stated.

The report goes on to say the city will be protected from another 1-in-200-year flood event like the one experienced in 2013 that caused $5 billion in insured damage across southern Alberta and resulted in five deaths. 

It adds that flood mitigation has resulted in a 55 per cent reduction in flood risk to the city and the under-construction $576 million Springbank reservoir will see a 70 per cent reduction in Elbow River flood risk.

CEMA notes that early coordinated monitoring and preventative response measures have helped minimize damage, along with long-term mitigation projects and support from the province.

"The City and Government of Alberta investments in new flood mitigation infrastructure since 2013 has resulted in a reduction of flood damages of approximately $93 million every year." 


In 2022, the City of Calgary saw 32 days under an extreme heat warning (issued when daily highs are above 29 C and lows are higher than 14 C for more than two days) and 12 days under an extreme cold warning (when temperatures drop below -40 C for at least two hours). 

CEMA says its main focus moving forward is to better plan for these types of extreme weather events and continue support for the city's Climate Resilience Strategy.

"We will continue to work to integrate climate adaptation principles and projected modelling into existing emergency management strategies and broader disaster risk reduction objectives," the report said. 

Revisions to the municipal emergency plan are expected to take place in 2023 to reflect organizational changes from the city's recent corporate realignment and further clarify the roles and responsibilities of CEMA members. Top Stories

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