Red Cross wants to help Manitoba First Nations better prepare for disaster

The next time a wildfire or flood breaks out in a Manitoba First Nation, the Canadian Red Cross wants the community to have a plan in place for quick action.

12 communities have new, easy-to-update emergency plans in place; project continues for 4 more years

A water bomber heads toward a wildfire near Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba in May. The Red Cross recently completed the 1st year of a 5-year project to help Manitoba First Nations better prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies. (CBC)

The next time a wildfire or flood breaks out in a Manitoba First Nation, the Canadian Red Cross wants the community to have a plan in place for quick action.

And 12 communities do now, after the first year of a five-year project to develop emergency response plans for all 63 Manitoba First Nations. 

The Red Cross is contracted to organize evacuations of Manitoba First Nations, but that may be upended by a committee of parliament reviewing issues with emergency responses

Last year, levels of government traded blame after Garden Hill communities had to take late-night boat rides to flee a wildfire, then slept on cots at the Winnipeg Convention Centre while hotel rooms were mobilized. MP MaryAnn Mihychuk and MLA Judy Klassen came under fire for allegedly yelling at Red Cross workers and volunteers. 

But Mihychuk says the drama was caused by the lack of clear plans for emergencies. "In Manitoba, the chiefs were saying 'we don't know who to phone,'" she told CBC News previously. 

Similar concerns were raised this year about wildfire ​of Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi

Cailin Hodder, the Red Cross' senior manager of emergency management for Manitoba And Nunavut, says the goal is to ensure communities are prepared for the worst.

"The end goal would be to understand what's available as far as resources out there, the big risks out there. We know that fire and flood are two of the biggest but we also know that other risks can be associated, so understanding what that is, and having 63 communities with an updated emergency response plan," she said.

"And we want it to be a plan that's simple to update on a yearly basis. So whether we're still a part of that process down the road or not, we want the community to be self-sufficient."

Right now, Hodder says the Red Cross is choosing the communities for the next round, aiming for another 12 communities each year.

They've approached Pauingassi to be part of this year's round. 

Hodder said she hopes Little Grand Rapids can be involved soon as well. 

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson