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)

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
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
BREAKING: Sinixt win historic decision at Supreme Court of Canada

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

Mark Skage and his son Mica during the filming of a West Kootenay episode of Start ‘em Young. Photo: Submitted
TV show films West Kootenay hunting trip

Start ‘Em Young aims to encourage kids to get out in the wilderness

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read