Forest fires – A survey to improve safety in the event of evacuation – La Sentinelle

Forest fires – A survey to improve safety in the event of evacuation – La Sentinelle
Forest fires – A survey to improve safety in the event of evacuation – La Sentinelle

The City of Chibougamau, in collaboration with HEC Montréal, needs the expertise of the population of Chibougamau to make its municipal evacuation simulations as reliable as possible.

Joelle Cormier is a doctoral candidate (Ph. D), operations and logistics management at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) in Montreal and she is part of the forest fire team. Her job being to do simulations, she reproduces on the computer processes that are difficult to test in real life, in the case that interests us, the evacuation of a town in Chibougamau. “We cannot ask the population of a town the size of Chibougamau to practice evacuation. » Even if this can be done in certain small municipalities, generally we will turn to computer simulations and that is where it comes into action.

If we go back in time a little, the analysis of evacuation of cities by simulation was planned and should begin during the last year. But the fires last spring rushed things a little, Ms. Cormier admitted to us. “With the evacuations last June, we now have the opportunity to get information ourselves on the ground. » To build a simulation, the amount of information required is considerable. “We need a lot of data, we need to understand what’s going on. What decisions people make, how long it takes, etc. » The more data researchers can collect, the more realistic and precise the simulation will be. This is what makes the experience of the population of Chibougamau so important and crucial to their work. There had never been an evacuation of an entire town the size of Chibougamau in Quebec in the past. The information that will be collected in the survey proposed to the population will make the simulation even more realistic and will also avoid searching for data from evacuated cities elsewhere in Canada, the United States and even in Europe.

An invaluable experience

The evacuation that Chibougamau residents experienced last year is a Source of valuable information for Ms. Cormier’s work. “What changes a lot is that it happens here and probably differently on certain subjects than in foreign cities. » This means that our regional, provincial and Canadian particularities can be taken into account, which will ultimately mean that the simulations will be much closer to reality and that the resulting recommendations will also be more precise.

Ms. Cormier has already started collecting data. She came to spend a few days in Chibougamau last winter to meet people from different sectors who had key positions during the evacuation. She wanted to understand how decisions were made, what was important in their decision-making, what worked well and not so well. “If there is a municipality in Quebec that is wondering what it should include in its evacuation plan and what it does not want to forget. The people of Chibougamau now have the expertise and can share their experience and say: “Well, we hadn’t thought of that at the time” but including it is a good thing. » As for example when the population returned, water points had been provided, toilet blocks and even a tow truck. She also met with citizens to prepare the survey which is currently being proposed to the population.

“Experts”

“Without knowing it, overnight, the population of Chibougamau has become, in a way, an expert in evacuation, because you are the only ones to have had the experience. » This experience applies as much to decision-makers as to the general population. No one can imagine what an evacuation is like until they have experienced it. The researcher therefore asks the population to share this valuable experience which will allow them to understand how everything went, what worked well for them, what worked a little less. “There are things to improve, but there are plenty of things that worked well. Let’s not forget that no one was prepared for such an eventuality. This has never been seen in Quebec. » How people received the information, how long it takes before they leave their homes, etc.

The population is asked to complete the survey (one survey per household) which is available on the City of Chibougamau website and on the Facebook page.

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