B.C. moving to digital Emergency Support Services
With annual flood and wildfire seasons approaching in British Columbia and physical distancing restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the province is launching a digital registration system for Emergency Support Services (ESS).
The new platform will be available for communities to provide evacuee self-registration, digital registration and referrals, and basic reporting.
“Following the 2017 wildfire season, our government began working to modernize the delivery of ESS,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Moving from an archaic paper-based system to a digital platform will ensure safe and timely access to services for those who need help during some of their hardest moments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual delivery of ESS is more important than ever to ensure safe physical distancing for volunteers and evacuees.”
Modernizing the registration system ensures evacuees have quick access to the supports they need, such as lodging, food and clothing. On average, approximately 30,000 people use ESS each year. The digital registration system will allow volunteers to concentrate on the needs of the most vulnerable people during an evacuation, while enabling safe physical distancing measures to protect both volunteers and evacuees.
“The new virtual registration system for emergency supports allows us to keep all our ESS volunteers,” said David Trawin, chief administrative officer, City of Kamloops. “The majority of these volunteers are seniors, and more than half said they would not be available if registration was paper-based and face-to-face interaction was required. It would have crippled us if we needed evacuations for floods and fire.”
The digital system was successfully piloted in four communities during the spring and summer of 2019: Prince George, Kamloops, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and the Regional District of Central Okanagan. As communities work to implement and train on the new system, the Province will continue to work with communities to ensure it runs smoothly.
Continued improvements will be made throughout the next year, so it will be able to support direct payment to evacuees and suppliers, noted a May 5 Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Emergency Management BC media release.