A researcher from the University of Saskatchewan says residents of northern communities should be kept closer to home during evacuations.

This is one of several recommendations made by Professor James Waldram in his report on evacuations in the Wollaston Lake area during June 2011.

About 1,300 people were flown from Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation to La Ronge, Prince Albert and Saskatoon because of approaching forest fires.

Waldram also says more research is needed on the effects of removing large numbers of people from remote communities during these evacuations.

“We need to think of the risk people experience in such potential disasters, in sort of a longer term horizon,” he says. “So not just getting people out of harm’s way, but what happens to them once you’ve got them out of harm’s way, and what happens to them over the next ten days or so that they’re out, and what happens to them when they are coming back.”

Waldram adds new strategies should be used when deciding how to organize an evacuation.

“We identify individuals who are at risk because of age or health problems and we often evacuate them first and this is what starts to lead to the division of family units. Our view is that rather than think of the unit of risk as the individual, think of it as the family so that families are evacuated together and go to the same place together.”

A number of other recommendations are included in the report which was written after Waldram and graduate student Julia Scharbach interviewed about 60 people from the community during the summer of 2012.