Kootenay Boundary Regional District chair Roly Russell, Tsartlip Chief Don Tom and former B.C. cabinet minister George Abbott are introduced at the B.C. legislature as members of an emergency management review panel, Oct. 28, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. to overhaul emergency procedures for wildfires, floods

Province to begin consultation tour and work with municipal and Indigenous communities

Lessons from a rockslide in the Fraser River, flooding in Grand Forks and wildfire evacuations across the B.C. Interior are informing an overhaul of B.C. emergency management procedures.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced a discussion paper and consultation Monday that will carry on until the end of January, with changes to the law governing evacuation orders and other emergency measures that affect communities and residents.

“Updating this legislation is long overdue,” Farnworth said Monday. “The Emergency Program Act was based on the War Measures Act, and it hasn’t been updated since 1993.”

Farnworth said B.C. approach will incorporate the “Sendai Framework,” a disaster response system named after the capital city of Myagi Prefecture in Japan. That region was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the framework focuses mobilizing society to reduce disaster risk.

The Sendai Framework includes methods to “build back better,” to reduce future risks such as was done with flooding in High River, Alta. in 2013, Farnworth said.

RELATED: Grand Forks tackling debris left from flooding

RELATED: Fraser River landslide a race to save salmon

RELATED: Emergency study finds communication a big issue

Farnworth introduced the three-member panel that will to gather input and recommend changes. It includes former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott, whose report on the lessons of the 2017 wildfire season identified the lack of coordination between the province and small, isolated communities. He also was tasked with speeding up applications to B.C.’s disaster recovery programs.

“If B.C. is going to better support communities and first nations from mitigation right through to recovery, there needs to be strong and inclusive legislation backing it, that’s what these changes have an opportunity to do,” Abbott said.

Another panel member is Roly Russell, chair of the Kootenay Boundary, who grappled with devastating flooding in Grand Forks the following year. He said the emergency response worked well, but “we had no playbook” for a recovery that is years in the making.

“It felt like a blank canvas when it came to designing a recovery plan and designing a recovery team,” Russell said. “A few references in provincial guidance material and part of a page in our regional plan seemed to be about the extent of recovery planning for an event of this magnitude.”

One of the issues was using workforce housing trailers to shelter people who were forced from their homes for long periods due to flooding. The trailers “wouldn’t meet the wellness needs of our community, would be expensive and create future problems,” Russell said.

The other panelist is Tsartlip Chief Don Tom, who said he will work to see Indigenous communities integrated more fully into the provincial response. That was a key finding of Abbott and Chapman’s 2017 report, which made more than 100 recommendations to government.

“The Big Bar landslide this year was a clear example of the type of emergencies we are likely to see more of in the future, and it caused significant losses to salmon runs on the Fraser River,” Tom said. “For first nations reliant on the salmon, it was an extremely challenging season, and we hope it’s an event that can be learned from moving forward.”


@tomfletcherbc
[email protected]

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Indigenous communities receive funding for hands-on trades training

Nuxalk, Witset, Penticton Indian Band, TRU Williams Lake, and Camosun College among beneficiaries

Nuxalk College undertakes language digitization project

New tapes from over 50 years ago are set to be digitally transcribed

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Bella Coola under another winter storm warning

Freezing rain is expected by this afternoon

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Most Read