What has happened in Fort McMurray has been a devastating disaster, but there has also been examples of courage, triumph, and resilience.
For one thing — even though no one was killed during the evacuation out of town as fires were ravaging southern neighbourhoods in Alberta’s oil sands city — firefighters, emergency crews and police officers successfully got all 80,000-plus residents out of Fort McMurray safely.
As hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles headed south on Highway 63 — the only road out of Fort McMurray — to escape “The Beast,” firefighters stayed in the city fighting flames as their own homes were gutted by the wildfire.
From watching all of the dashcam and mobile phone footage that was posted on social media, it was like escaping from Hell. Mounties, who were not seen wearing masks to protect themselves from the heavy smoke, were busy and calmly directing residents out of town as drivers and their panic-stricken families frantically headed to the highway to escape the flames. It was a surreal scene.
As those cars were lined up on the highway — with caravans of vehicles stretching for tens of kilometres — volunteers, johnny-on-the-spots, concerned citizens headed north to help stranded motorists with food and fuel.
Once those Fort McMurray at emergency shelters — whether it was in Edmonton, Boyle, Lac la Biche, or as far south as Calgary — those communities and complete strangers opened their arms to help.
When public pleas were made for disaster-relief donations, Canadians stepped up in a big way. All in all, every person who lives in Alberta — or anywhere across Canada — should be proud of what was accomplished here.
There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of questions still need to be answered in terms of re-building and giving people their livelihoods back. However, in terms of successes, a lot can be learned about the bravery and courage in Fort McMurray.
For example, social media strategists, media relations professionals, and communication experts can learn a lot from that community’s amazing fire chief, Darby Allen.
During times of crisis, Allen and the team responsible for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s social media accounts kept Fort McMurray residents updated on the status of the fire.
What was particularly amazing was the video posted to Twtter Tuesday night of Allen re-assuring residents that its fire department is looking after their homes and businesses.
Here it is:
What I found particularly amazing was the fact that not only did he send good news to residents by saying crews “just about have this fire beat,” he also personally assured residents that it isn’t safe to come back to Fort McMurray just yet.
To the public, Allen talks like it came from the heart — and it really did. That is something organizations should pay extra attention to when it's faced with adversity or a crisis.
Meanwhile, please continue to give to the Red Cross or find a way to volunteer to help those who have been displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfires.