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New tools will help people prepare, stay informed during emergencies

May 9, 2024 at 9:17 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

With many parts of the province experiencing warmer weather and British Columbia forecast to have an active wildfire season, the Province is introducing an interactive Emergency Ready Planner to help people create an emergency and evacuation plan for their family.

This is part of a suite of new-and-improved tools released during Emergency Preparedness Week to help keep people safe through wildfires, drought, floods and earthquakes.

“We’re taking strong action to help you and your family prepare and have the information you need during emergencies,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. “Being prepared and feeling ready starts with having a plan. We encourage everyone to make an emergency and evacuation plan, and the new tools launched today make planning easier and will help people stay safe.”

New and improved emergency preparedness tools and resources include:

  • the Emergency Ready Planner, an online, interactive tool to help people create a personalized emergency and evacuation plan;
  • major upgrades to the BC Wildfire Service app to better connect people to the latest wildfire and fire ban information; and
  • updates to the Drought Information Portal to better inform people about drought levels and watershed conditions around the province.

In an emergency, knowing what to do, where to go and who to contact reduces stress and keeps people focused and safe. The Emergency Ready Planner makes it faster and easier to create an emergency and evacuation plan that is tailored to household needs and local hazard risks. The planner helps people identify emergency meeting places; list important contacts, medical and insurance information; recommends supplies for emergency kits and grab-and-go bags; and includes FireSmart steps to protect homes from wildfire.

When wildfires happen near communities, people want up-to-date information. Improvements to the BC Wildfire Service app make it easier for people to get the latest information on mobile devices, tablets and computers. The wildfire dashboard has more features, including a provincial situation report and easier access to fire ban information. People are able to submit fire reports when out of cell service range. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

“During wildfire season, we want to make sure that British Columbians have access to fast, reliable information when they need it most,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “That’s why we have taken action to improve the BC Wildfire Service app and put it at the fingertips of more people around the province. Starting today, the newly improved app will be available on more devices and will include the most up-to-date wildfire information that will keep people safe and informed this summer.”  

The Drought Information Portal helps communities, farmers and businesses understand how drought could affect their region so they can prepare and take action. The portal provides current and historical drought levels, watershed conditions, and other precipitation, snowpack and groundwater data by geographic region. Each region is assigned a drought classification level using a 0-to-5 scale with 5 being most severe, based on water supply and risk of adverse effects to people, fish, animals and the environment.

In 2023, a severe drought hit British Columbia, which was worse and more widespread than ever before. Communities and businesses are encouraged to take water-conservation measures early this year to prepare for potential drought conditions.

“B.C. experienced serious drought last summer, and we continue to get less rain and snow than usual. That’s why we are taking strong, early action to prepare, including strengthening the information people have on hand,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “In communities across B.C., people, businesses and governments are already taking steps to follow local restrictions and help save water. Small changes make a big difference when we do them together.”

The newly streamlined BC Drought Portal has been upgraded to make it more user-friendly across platforms. The portal will be updated weekly, providing information for the public, media and key partners about preparing and responding to drought, understanding provincial drought conditions and regulatory actions that are underway. The BC Drought Portal will be updated with information as the drought season progresses to help communities plan ahead and take action to reduce the impact of drought conditions. In addition to the portal, a refreshed drought website has been launched where people can find information about water conservation tips, conservation rebates and incentives, and specific resources for farmers and food producers.

British Columbia is expected to experience an active wildfire season due to the persistent and ongoing drought. In the coming days, many parts of the province are forecast to experience warm and windy weather, which increases the risk of spring wildfires when grass and trees are still dry. This time of year the majority of wildfires are human-caused so extra precautions are needed when recreating and working outdoors. People should also be aware that the first high temperatures of the season can lead some people to overheat because they are not accustomed to warmer weather.

Launching the new Emergency Ready Planner and improving the BC Wildfire Service app are in line with recommendations from the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies to provide quick and direct access to clear and reliable information to help people plan for and act during an evacuation.

Quick Facts

  • Emergency Preparedness Week, May 5-11, 2024, is an annual reminder for people to take steps to be better prepared for an emergency.
  • During the 2023 wildfire season, approximately 2.8 million hectares burned, more than 600 residential structures were destroyed or partially damaged, and as many as 48,900 people were under evacuation order with 137,000 on evacuation alert.
  • Since 2017, more than $217 million has been provided to communities through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to enhance their ability to respond to emergencies and mitigate future climate-related risks.
  • More than half of the funding has been distributed since 2022 demonstrating the Province’s commitment to ramping up defences against climate emergencies.

Learn More

To get prepared and make a plan at, visit: https://PreparedBC.ca/EmergencyReady

To see the Emergency Ready Planner and Drought Information Portal and BC Wildfire Service app digital demonstration, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K2by3RWWQE

To see the refreshed drought website, visit: https://www.gov.bc.ca/drought 

To learn more about the BC Wildfire Service and get the app, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status

To monitor current drought levels, visit: https://DroughtPortal.gov.bc.ca

To get emergency and evacuation alerts, visit: https://EmergencyInfoBC.ca

To learn about BC Centre for Disease Control health information on risks from wildfires and smoke, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/prevention-public-health/wildfire-smoke

To see an interactive map of cooling centres and hot-weather resources in B.C., visit: https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=950b4eec577a4dc5b298a61adab41c06

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