overview

An atmospheric river in November 2021 caused significant flooding across BC. There was $7.5 billion in damage, making it the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. Multiple highways were impacted throughout the province, displacing thousands of residents. Spur was retained by the Province of BC through the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure to ensure people living in the immediate vicinity of impacted highways understood the scale of damage, the plan for emergency repairs, and when they could return home.

catastrophic damage to highway 8 in BC in November 2021

key opportunities

By its nature, this project was urgent, complex and intense. These were the challenges we faced.

displacement

Our target audiences were people who had been displaced from their homes. They were in temporary accommodations, struggling to make sense of a horrible disaster. We had to find ways to reach them despite their limited access to power, technology and the comforts of home.

uncertain impact

The floods generated billions of dollars in damage in a short period of time. It took time for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to fully assess the damage and develop prescriptions for emergency repairs. We had to communicate amidst a great deal of uncertainty.

information flow

Many First Nations communities were displaced by the floods, particularly in the Highway 8 corridor. Our team had to work closely and collaboratively with MOTI’s Indigenous relations advisors to ensure information was always shared with chiefs and councils, band administrators and other Indigenous leaders, first.

consistent voice

Eight different major highways suffered significant damage. Each corridor was unique. At the same time, MOTI needed to ensure  consistency in its communication to residents in these diverse regions. We had to create coordinated materials for very different teams.

our approach

Spur worked closely with the project’s executive director to conduct a swift and thorough environmental assessment, mapping stakeholders, communication and engagement risks.. We mapped the media landscape and gathered information about where dislocated residents were staying – and how to best reach them.

We then began creating regular updates for residents, summarizing the impact of the floods and work underway. We produced regular newsletters, social media content and updates for the BC Flood Highway Recovery website.

We also supported the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to develop training materials for work crews, including archaeological best practices for “chance finds” of significant material, environmental best practices for fish preservation and guidelines for in-stream works.

residents first

Some British Columbians suffered devastating losses from the floods and many were displaced with no sense of when they could return home. Our approach was rooted in empathy of their experiences, awareness of their needs and sensitivity to their circumstances.

streamlined systems

In an emergency, you need to strategize, mobilize and communicate quickly. From the beginning, we developed clear content production and approval processes and followed a strict schedule to keep communication on a steady and predictable cadence.

pivotal partnerships

Some British Columbians suffered devastating losses from the floods and many were displaced with no sense of when they could return home. Our approach was rooted in empathy of their experiences, awareness of their needs and sensitivity to their circumstances.

coordinated comunication

Consistency is key. With every new development on every highway project, we took care to produce consistent updates across a range of media and platforms. No matter where residents were getting their information, we made sure the news was the same.

metrics that matter

This project launched days after a devastating natural disaster. British Columbians were still processing a traumatic event and the scope of damage and communication needs were uncertain. Nevertheless, we got great results, quickly.

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newsletters

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social posts

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central strategy

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highway projects

the results

Our team was able to mobilize very quickly, producing communication for residents within days of the floods, then ongoing consistently for four months. Partners praised the reliable stream of updates, saying they had never seen this level of consistency after a natural disaster. Residents came to rely on the information as critical to planning their day-to-day lives and return plans. After generating great results for the Highway 8 project team, Spur was asked to support the Highway 1 and Highway 5 project teams as well. 

highway construction

Spur led our success in communicating with BC residents impacted by the November 2021 floods. They displayed the utmost professionalism, attention to detail and collaboration throughout our project. Without their guidance and expertise, we would have experienced a different outcome.