When extreme rain and an "atmospheric river" first hit southern British Columbia on November 12th, no one was prepared for the extent of the devastation. Within days, extensive flooding swamped whole communities and farmlands and mudslides destroyed the highways and roads connective the lower mainland around Vancouver with the rest of Canada. Lives were lost, hundreds of travellers were stranded on cutoff highways, thousands in communities like Merritt and Princeton are ordered to evacuate. Rich agricultural regions across the southern mainland are inundated. With so many lives impacted, economic developers were quick to react.
The economic development organization of Abbotsford, a community particularly hard hit by the flooding, jumped quickly into action to get information and resources out to the farmers and businesses in their region. An innovative organization accustomed to using digital tools and social media for outreach, economic development coordinator Kim O'Sullivan and director Carilynn Siemens quickly sprang into action. They reviewed their suite of interactive GIS Planning tools and decided to create a dedicated ZoomTour, using our new cloud-based virtual tour building software, to get useful resources for the community into one easy-to-use online resource.
Their BC Agricultural Resources ZoomTour offers users with a zillion questions a chance to get the answers they need, in an interactive, multimedia online tour that connects them to resources for farmers, business owners and residents. Because the tour can be quickly and easily edited and stops reordered as needed, it was possible to ensure content was updated as information became available, such as the new Return Home Plan or new resource links for cattle farmers.
The British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) was also quick to jump into action to support communities in the province impacted by the storms and flooding. They had a team of volunteers call every single business in the hard-hit town of Princeton to see who was open for business and then used ZoomTour to quickly put together a map they could share on their website, in emails and on social media. The frequently updated Princeton - Welcome Home tour is a testament to that community spirit and the willingness of an economic development association to support its members when they need it most.
“One of the best things a community can do following any disaster is to find ways to support business. In doing that, you are helping residents return to normal," explained Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO of BCEDA. "As a resource for helping the Town of Princeton map businesses that are open, the ZoomTour virtual tour building tool has been a helpful assistant for managing an unfolding crisis.”
To learn more about the flooding situation impacting communities in British Columbia, please visit this excellent resource page on the BCEDA website.