Joe Lebeau/Hashmark Photography Keremeos and area residents were hard hit by both flooding and wildfires in 2018. A research team is delving into the psychological impacts of natural disasters.

UBC team tackles psychological impact of floods, fires in Okanagan

Researchers from UBCO are undertaking research on the impacts of flooding and fires on people

  • Feb. 13, 2019 2:13 p.m.

A research team from UBCO is looking into the long term impacts of flooding, and wildfires on communities using Keremeos and area as their test plot.

“We’ve been actually working in the Similkameen area the last few years looking at mental health concerns, gaps in service. Over the recent last few years with the frequency of flooding and wildfires we said, ‘let’s start looking at how those things are impacting the communities,” said Carolyn Szostak, the principal investigator from UBCO.

Szostak with a team of under graduates are undertaking the research project that could have an impact on communities throughout the province and farther.

Related: Breaking: Snowy Mountain wildfire jumps Similkameen River

“I think the reality is pretty clear, flooding and wildfires are not going to disappear, if anything they are going to increase with frequency and severity and it impacts us on so many levels. If we are better equipped psychologically that could help. We know that mental health impacts physical health and vice versa,” she said.

Although it’s early in the process to note any serious trends, Szostak said higher levels of anxiety and fear are expected among respondents. She also noted front line workers are experiencing a level of fatigue.

Research will study the impacts on the general population, but also zero in on front line workers from firefighters to municipal staff working in Emergency Operation Centres, to counselors in the community.

“We’re trying to learn as much as we can from everyone effected in their various roles. And then hopefully this can be used to identify what the gaps in services are and then movement will happen to fill those gaps,” she said.

Researchers need close to 100 responses to the survey to make their research viable.

Anyone interested in participating or who would like more information can contact by email at carolyn@szostak@ubc.ca or ali.caldwell@alumni.ubc.ca or by telephone 250-807-8736.

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