Women in disasters: conference proceedings and recommendations



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A. Women Emergency Managers And The Disaster Workplace (Day 2: “Changing organizational culture and practice”)
Facilitated by Ruth Harding, Regional Emergency Planning Coordinator, Greater Vancouver Regional District. Panelists: Amber Teed, xxxxx Nus Whunee Training; Rosanna von Sacken, Manager, North East Sector Emergency Program.
Of main interest to volunteers and professionals in emergency management and response, the workshop begins with brief presentations from experienced women practitioners. Panelists and participants will consider how, or whether, the workplace culture supports women or men in nontraditional roles, learn what draws different women to various kinds of emergency work, and identify opportunities for change as well as barriers. Do women bring different perspectives, issues, skills or concerns? What would gender-balanced emergency management look like? The discussion will also consider organizational responses to issues raised by gender integration.
Q: What draws women to emergency work and why? How did you get started? How has

gender shaped your work experiences?


Q: Is there a “glass ceiling” or a “sticky floor” for women in emergency management?

For which women, and why? Are men in emergency management typecast?


Q: How do gender stereotypes impact the daily routines of your agency? Does this

make a difference for employees, volunteers, or the public?


Q: Who supports nontraditional roles for women in emergency organizations? How?

Why?
Q: What barriers exist to change in your agency? Who or what have you seen work

effectively to broaden opportunities?


  1. Work and Family in Disasters: Caring for Caregivers and Responders. (Day 2: “Supporting caregivers and responders: institutional models”)

Facilitated by Mary Clappa, President, Epicentre Inc. Panelists: Brenda Fox, Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Ministry of Human Resources, Emergency Social Services; Brenda Broughton, Director, Employee Assistance Program, Family Services of Greater Vancouver; Delaine Milette, Assistant Coordinator, Victim Services


This workshop is geared both to traditional disaster responders and to agencies and individuals likely to become informal responders. Panelists will set the stage by identifying work/family issues for women as voluntary responders in the home and community and through Emergency Social Services. How significant is women’s work behind the scenes and in support of male responders? Who supports women or women’s services in crisis? What gender issues arise for men as emergency responders and family members? The discussion will include strategies for supporting both formal and informal caregivers and responders, male and female.
Q: In your experience, what kinds of disaster work (paid and/or unpaid) do women and

men take on and why? How does this impact family life?


Q: Who in practice provides voluntary or paid emergency care to disaster victims? What

problems arise for them before, during, and after an emergency, and why?


Q: How do family roles support and/or complicate your own work?
Q: How has your agency dealt with potentially conflicting work and family

responsibilities? Has this been effective for co-workers, managers, and/or family?


Q: How can dual-career emergency couples (nurse/firefighter) plan to respond both to

family and to disaster?


Q: How can communities support nonprofits and other informal responding

agencies through the crisis and recovery periods? Who are these informal responders?



#3: Gender Issues in Emergency Relief (Day 2: “Gender-sensitive emergency response: action plans for agencies”)
Facilitated by Lynn Orstad, Emergency Coordinator, City of Richmond. Panelists: Cynthia Davis, Coordinator, Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre; Doreen Myers, Executive Director, BC Emergency Social Services Association
Emergency responders and representatives from women’s services will take a “nuts and bolts” look at crisis relief for women in crisis. Do women and men have distinct needs for emergency assistance? How will your agency meet the needs of women across cultures, in different stages of life, and with different personal resources? What can women’s grassroots service agencies contribute to emergency response, and what will their own needs be? Panelists will draw on their field experience and community work to identify key issues, barriers, resources, and models for change.
Q: How does gender influence the experiences of women and men providing emergency

relief? How has your gender interacted with other life experiences or conditions as

you have responded to various local and/or distant emergencies?
Q: Do women and men have any different disaster experiences or different needs for

assistance? If so, why and what are they?


Q: How does gender influence the experiences of women and men applying for or

receiving emergency relief? Are the specific needs of both women and men met?

How do you know?
Q: How well does your agency meet the needs of women across cultures, in different

stages of life, with different personal resources? How are women victims engaged in

various aspects of relief operations?
Q: What concrete actions would make a difference, for example for responding to a

battered woman in a transition house, a minority-language speaker with an elderly

parent, or transient women in your area?
Q: How are victim services and other grassroots groups likely to be involved in

emergency relief work and with what capacities and needs?



#4: Gender Issues in Preparedness, Recovery, and Mitigation (Day 2: “Working with women toward disaster-resilient communities”)
Facilitated by Laurie Pearce, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. Panelists: Tracy Porteous, Director, BC Association of Specialized Victim Assistance and Counselling Programs; Janice Murray, North Vancouver school preparedness volunteer.
Taking a longer view, this workshop will examine women’s potential and existing roles before disaster and through long-term recovery and prevention. Panelists will discuss how women in their homes and neighborhood, emergency agencies, and community organisations are presently engaged in disaster preparedness and how they contribute to the long-term recovery of disaster survivors. What structures or resources currently support their work, what gaps exist, and how can women’s resources be more fully utilized? Women’s participation is essential in the effort to build disaster-resilient communities. Toward that end, the workshop will develop strategies for increased disaster readiness in women’s services and for more gender-aware disaster planning and mitigation.
Q: Which women are most at risk in your community? How does your agency assess the

vulnerability of various groups of women at the local level, and how is this

information utilized?
Q: How are women in your community involved in disaster readiness, if they are? What

formal or informal roles do they play in long-term recovery?


Q: What does disaster mitigation mean? How, in your experience, does it impact the

daily lives of women and men?


Q: How are grassroots women’s organizations (e.g. religious, educational, service,

social, political groups) involved in disaster planning locally? Victims’ services?

Governmental women’s bureaus? What strategies would increase their collaboration

with formal responders and emergency planners?


Q: What can women in the community contribute to better preparing households,

organizations and communities for disaster? Which women and why? How does your

agency engage them?


A CALL TO ACTION:



Meeting The Needs Of Women in Disaster

To increase the visibility of women’s vulnerabilities and resources in disaster and enhance effective response to their needs, we recommend:
1. Women speaking out strongly within their own organizations to voice their views and create a climate for change;
2. Fully engaging women in proactive planning for violence-free and culturally-sensitive disaster response in every community;
3. Women participating in developing emergency plans within their agencies and reviewing, evaluating, and amending existing emergency plans, if any;
4. Community-based hazard assessment identifying the location and specific

needs of vulnerable women and children, among them women living with disabilities, mental illness, or serious medical problems, senior women, new immigrant women, minority-language speakers, single mothers, poor and low-income women and others;


5. Extended and culturally-appropriate post-disaster responses, including long-term recovery outreach teams and alternative mental health models such as healing circles;
6. Developing and distributing emergency response materials in different languages and geared to different communities, including deaf and impaired-hearing women and others with special needs;
7. Funding to support Canadian research into the role of gender in the planning, response, and recovery activities of emergency responders, planners, volunteers, and the community at large;
8. Implementing a national mitigation strategy with the active participation of women, taking into account women’s visions of more sustainable communities and gender issues in community planning and emergency response;
9. Facilitating women’s participation in developing post-disaster recovery and reconstruction plans empowering to women, including providing child care at community meetings;
10. Integrating gender analysis into existing and new emergency management training at the provincial and national levels;
11. Distributing through traditional and new media the proceedings and

recommendations of this conference to all relevant provincial and federal agencies and to women’s service organizations throughout the province.



To integrate women’s services into all aspects of emergency management at the local, provincial, and national levels, we recommend:
1. Including women's services as full and equal partners in community-based emergency planning, contributing their knowledge and expertise to more effective emergency response;
2. Developing a workbook for women’s organizations undertaking emergency planning, including specific guidelines and resources, information on individual preparedness, local emergency management resources and structures, and relevant gender and cultural issues;

3. Employing diverse media and delivery strategies to educate women’s organizations that serve disaster-vulnerable groups about community-specific hazards, existing resources and response plans, and other aspects of emergency management;


4. Developing or extending existing and new organizational partnerships, for

example between emergency managers, women’s services, and regional

health care agencies.

To address emergency planning issues specifically impacting violence against women services, we recommend:
1. Innovative strategies to assist antiviolence programs with in-house emergency planning, including an emergency planning workbook geared to specific issues confronting these programs in the event of a major community disaster;
2. Producing and distributing to governmental and community agencies a comprehensive report educating social and human service planners and emergency responders about the social impacts of disaster on women, including the risk of increased violence;

3. Implementing proactive agreements with provincial and federal agencies which provide post-disaster financial assistance to ensure that timely and adequate financial resources are available for antiviolence organizations responding to increased service demands in the aftermath of disaster;


4. Revising relevant provincial brochures and materials to include information on the likely social and psychological effects of disaster, including increased violence;
5. Incorporating violence issues into training materials for mental health disaster outreach teams and developing mutual aid agreements between women’s services and mental health agencies;
6. Developing alternative plans for women unable to safely access existing evacuation sites;
7. Initiating agreements with BC PEP and lifeline services such as BC Tel to maintain accessible services by according priority status to crisis lines during disaster;
8. Implementing mutual aid agreements among neighbouring antiviolence services to foster timely crisis and recovery assistance to hard-hit programs and services;
9. Arranging for inspection and evaluation of the physical facilities of women’s services in seismic regions;
10. Educating and preparing staff and volunteers in women’s services for their personal safety and for more effective assistance to others.
To support women in emergency management and women’s service roles across organizations and agencies, we recommend:
1. Increasing opportunities for formal and informal networking between women’s services and emergency planners and responders at the local level;
2. Creating opportunities for informal mentoring, job exchange and other initiatives which will increase communication between women emergency managers and women’s service providers;
3. Developing a BC PEP-hosted web-site and using existing women’s service web-sites to share information and increase electronic networking between women’s services and women emergency managers.
To support and sustain women undertaking voluntary relief work, we recommend:
1. Developing a comprehensive informational packet and video about how relief workers and their families are likely to be impacted by this work;
2. Providing public recognition and other incentives for employers who support the voluntary relief work of their employees, and informational materials for unions and business encouraging proactive policies and procedures, e.g. protecting the vacation time of employees accepting emergency relief assignments, and financial assistance with out-of-pocket expenses such as child care;


  1. 3. Increasing local support for the families of emergency response workers on

assignment, for example neighborhood family networking, meals-on-wheels assistance through local religious and non-religious organizations, and contact through the emergency assignment between the sending organization and the relief worker’s family;
4. Encouraging a range of comprehensive child care options for the families of emergency response workers, to be provided by the sending organization or employer, or available on-site as appropriate;
5. Funding extended trauma teams to provide response workers with long-term, confidential mental health services as needed, to be provided through task numbers assigned by the Provincial Emergency Program under the terms of the Emergency Program Act;
6. Mandating on-site crisis counseling and critical incident stress debriefing for all relief workers, and effective orientation of incoming relief workers by those departing.
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