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Enhance community resilience,flood preparedness through effective communication(storytelling)&citizen engagement at the neighbourhood level



With support from the Climate Co-Lab we would develop a video narrative to encourage flood preparedness and broader climate change awareness as part of a larger project. Our project proposes to develop an effective communications product to raise awareness of these issues in the region, at the neighbourhood level.

The operational and planning responses to flood risks identified in municipal stormwater management plans and TRCA’s watershed studies include infrastructure upgrades, increased maintenance, and public risk awareness initiatives.[1] Public awareness initiatives are intended to encourage individual homeowners, businesses and community stakeholders to adopt lot-side retrofits, stormwater controls, purchasing of flood insurance and other risk mitigation measures.[2] While municipalities have begun designing and rolling-out public awareness campaigns, uptake is still limited, and technical support for homeowners and small businesses is limited. Moreover, little effort has been made to tailor specific lot-side solutions to the flood regimes and uncertainty associated with climate change.

Results from preliminary consultations with stakeholders and the Toronto Region Conservation Authorities' (TRCA) previous research and studies in our jurisdiction led to the finding that flooding and other impacts associated with extreme precipitation, such as erosion, are of prime concern to stakeholders in the region.[3] Flooding has also been identified as a key watershed management priority for other areas - both urban and rural - in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (GTHA).[4] Across Canada, flooding has outstripped fire as the country’s largest source of insurable losses.[5] Recent events including major flooding of Toronto on July 8th 2013, flooding of major GTA roadways (May 29-30, 2013), Hurricane Sandy (2012), the 2009 Cooksville Creek Flood in Mississauga are clear indications of the risks that floods pose to community assets and local citizens across Ontario.[6]


Category of the action

Urban adaptation

What actions do you propose?

Our project aims to facilitate the uptake of preventative steps to enhance community resilience to flooding through effective communication and citizen engagement in flood preparedness and associated emergency management. We will proactively use education, outreach and communication tools to work directly with neighbourhood level stakeholders in the implementation of low-cost measures proven to reduce risk and increase resilience to flooding, with an emphasis on increasing awareness of flood risk. The importance of this communications initiative and a larger risk assessment of flood vulnerable communities has been made eivdently clear by recent and unprecendented flooding in two of Canada's largest cities, first Calgary and now Toronto. This has given the project team pause for thought and encouraged us to consider ways to further the dissemination of existing information and research on these issues while at the same time encouraging a renewed interest in this issue.

We think the time is right to act on this issue and consequently leverage outcomes to support iniatives not only across our jurisdiction, but others. While the pilot will be focused on the Toronto area through our connections with other conservation authorities across the province we'll aim to actively communicate our findings, share our expertise. Moreover, we envisage using existing web-platforms, the OCC, TRCA website and connections to local area municipalities to spread the information on this project and the process we use to go about affecting its implementation.

In that regard, we've recently discovered a new online tool - JS Timeline which we've been using to track flood impacts from the most recent storm. We propose to use this tool as a way of not only documenting issues and impacts, but also the process we go through in delivering on this project. It is our belief that by focusing our strategy around direct community engagement in flood affected areas, using video, social media and other tools to develop build a compelling narrative around issues of flooding and climate change we could affect some real changes at the community level. Again, we want to make this a very transparent process, one in which we would be able to effectively share with other jurisdictions be they located in Toronto, Calgary, Boston or Burundi. We're really excited to pilot this process. 

The proposed initiative will:

      I.        Develop a transferable model for increasing public awareness of watershed issues, specifically flood risk;

    II.        Foster the development of flood resilient – climate change and extreme weather ready neighbourhoods across several areas in TRCA’s watersheds;

   III.        Connect the public to local natural assets in their watershed through an understanding of their role in flooding, the provision of drinking water and ecosystem services;

  IV.        Engage the public to take action on protecting neighborhood assets, businesses and homes against flooding (in this regard, we're work with existing watershed councils, city councillors and neighbourhood associations to drive engagement);

    V.        Ensure community awareness of current flood protection assets and risks on several case-specific scenarios (e.g., whether they are insured or not);

  VI.        Enhance the element of preparedness within community based emergency management and ultimately create healthier more livable communities now and into the future; and

 VII.        Measure the project inputs, outputs and outcomes to manage a successful communications project.

While the above objectives constitute the overall aims of a larger initiative our specific objective through the Climate Co-Lab project would be focused on the development of 1-2 community focused videos examining the issues of flooding and climate change within the TRCA's jurisdiction at the neighbourhood scale. In that regard, we aim to specifically support an aspect of such work that is often overlooked, namely communications at the neighbourhood level. 

We want to avoid producing, a dry technical assessment of the project and want to use the talents and abilities of a prospective film-maker in partnership with our staff to develop an interesting and compelling narrative around the project, the importance of climate change adaptation and the impact it will have on the people living and working in the local area. We believe this is key to improving overall community resilience to the impacts of a changing climate and the projected increases in the type and severity of extreme weather events that lead to significant flooding events. 

We're inspired by the work that other jurisdictions have done, notably, the Climate Wisconsin project. The videos developed for this project are not only informative, but provide a compelling narrative on which to support a wide range of actions intended to enhance local and regional level resilience to climate change. Using the funding available we would work closely with an established network of stakeholders, partners and collaborators to tell the story of how a changing climate will impact communities, neighbourhoods and homeowners across our region. In terms of distributing the videos and telling the climate story we would share the videos with local councillors and key members of the TRCA's board among others including our community based watershed councils/groups. Moreover, through an existing relationship with the OntarioEcoSchools program (since 2002) we believe we could reach out and inform the next generation of engineers, ecologists and city planners who will be tasked with responding to the challenges associated with climate change, not least of which may well be flooding in their local communities. 


Who will take these actions?

The TRCA will lead this work in partnership with other key partners. Moreover, in our role as the Secretariat for the Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC), we'll support the broader dissemination of this project to other jurisdictions and communities dealing with similar issues. The following is a list of stakeholders that will be engaged in the proposed project:

·         Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC)

·         Region of Peel

·         Cities of Brampton and Mississauga, Toronto and the Town of Caledon

·         Conservation Ontario

Scientific | Technical Advisors:

·         Ryan Ness, Manager, Research and Development, TRCA;

·         Laurian Farrell, Senior Manager, Flood Management Service, TRCA; and

·         Fabio Tonto, Project Manager, Policy, Research and Special Projects, TRCA.

Stakeholder Liaisons:

·         Stewart Dutfield, OCC/Climate Programs, Program and Communications Manager, TRCA; and

·         Harris Switzman, Project Manager, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. 


Where will these actions be taken?

The action stated above will take place in Regional Municipality of Peel (including the Lake Ontario Shoreline, and four watersheds- Humber River, Etobicoke Creek, Mimico Creek and Credit River).

What are other key benefits?

The proposed study, but in particular this video/communications project will hopefully serve to raise the level of public discourse and engagement as it relates to climate change impacts within the Region by focusing the ways ordinary neighbourhoods and communities will be affected. If nothing else, we hope to stimulate a discussion as to how preparing for issues like flooding simply makes a community stronger. Moreover, if this video component of the work is successful in supporting a broader discussion of climate change, adaptation and community resilience we hope to use it as a springboard for exploring other issues related to climate change including natural heritage climate change vulnerability and risk assessment; climate threats to Lake Ontario, the health effects associated with climate change and much, much more. Again, we'd like to focus on an exploration of these issues and impacts at the local level.

What are the proposal’s costs?

We have been able to identify some funding to support the overall project, but $10,000 from the Climate Co-Lab initiative would used specifically to support the development of 1-2 videos examining the issues identified above. Based on experience on other projects, $10,000 would be sufficient to hire a filmmaker to work with existing staff to develop some poignant stories of flood risk, resilience and community level adaptation to climate change. 

The funding would primarily be used to cover the costs of:

  • Video Recording
    • Video capture
    • Lighting
    • Sound
    • Camera set up
  • Video Editing
    • Editing services
    • Motion and sound design, and any additional required editing
    • Tilting and render to final AVI compression and MOV for proofing and uploading files


TRCA staff will work collaboratively with the filmmaker to provide in-kind support and project management oversight including:

  • Community stakeholder outreach and engagement;
  • Logistical coordination (filming of workshops, meetings and interviews with stakeholders, etc);
  • Publicity and outreach, web hosting and distribution of project materials; 
  • Access to project specific information and resources (i.e. climate data, project profiles, etc), and
  • Moreover, through our work with the Conservation Ontario and the Ontario Climate Consortium we'd work to broadly disseminate the videos and encourage other jurisdictions to explore these issues.

Time line

Based on experience working on other projects we suspect that the video production aspect of the project could be completed within a year in the process of completing the associated flood vulnerbality assessment process.

Objective 1: Identification of parameters of interest associated with flooding and climate change within TRCA's jurisdiction at the neighbourhood level.  

  • Sub-task 1: Establish working group and define stakeholder groups (Mth 1-2)
  • Sub-task 2: Hire a filmaker (Mth 3)
  • Sub-Task 3: Identify climate parameter/risk thresholds of interest in consultation with working group (Mth 3-4)


Objective 2: Compilation of 1-2 videos

  • Sub-Task 1: Coordinate filming working with stakeholder groups (Mth 4-7)
  • Sub-Task 2: Conduct video editing (Mth 7-8)


Objective 3: Disseminate Information

  • Sub-Task 1: Create plan for  publicity and outreach (Mth 8-9)
  • Sub-Task 2: Conduct publicity and outreach (Mth 9-11)
  • Sub-Task 3: Provide access to project specific information and resources (Mth 11-12)

Related proposals

Probably best to tell you a little more about us: 

Toronto Region Conservation Authority

Formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel, TRCA has a strong history in watershed management and leadership in applying sustainability practices. With decades of practical experience in protecting our environment, educating young people, and engaging communities, TRCA works with governments, businesses, and individuals to build a greener, cleaner healthier place to live.


Ontario Climate Consortium

The Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC or Consortium) represents a distributed collective of scientists, researchers and practitioners from across Ontario with a focus on addressing climate change issues pertinent to Ontario and beyond.



[1] City of Mississauga, 2010; City of Toronto, 2009; City of Hamilton, 2009.

[2] Sandink, D. Urban flooding in Canada: Lot-side risk reduction through voluntary retrofit programs, code interpretation and by-laws. ICLR research paper series – number 52. Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction:Toronto, ON.pp. 80.

[3] City of Mississauga. 2010. Drainage and Flooding. City of Mississauga: Mississauga, ON. pp.16.

[1]Region of Peel. 2010. Stormwater Management in Peel Region. Regional Council Report.    PW-F1, September 1, 2010. pp. 18.

[4] City of Toronto. 2009. The Wet Weather Flow Master Plan: The Plan in Action (5 Year Summary Report). City of Toronto: Toronto, ON.pp. 71.

[2]City of Hamilton. 2009.Hamilton Independent Community Review Group. Storm Event Response Group, City of Hamilton - Public Works: Hamilton, ON. pp. 106.

[5] Insurance Bureau of Canada. 2011. Municipal Storm and Sanitary Infrastructure Risk Assessment Tool Project. Insurance Bureau of Canada: Ottawa, ON. pp. 4.

[6] Other important recent flood events include: 2004 flooding in Peterborough, ON; 2005 wash-out of Finch Avenue in Toronto, and continual flooding of the Red Hill Valley Expressway in Hamilton since 2007.