New tools will help people prepare, stay informed during emergencies

Press Release

May 9, 2024

VICTORIA – 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

Three backgrounders follow.

Contacts:Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
Media Relations
250 896-7365

BACKGROUNDER 1

Emergency Ready Planner

During an emergency, knowing what to do, where to go and who to contact helps to reduce stress and keep people focused and safe.

The Emergency Ready Planner is an interactive online tool that makes it fast and easy to make a personalized emergency plan in about 30 minutes. Once complete, the plan can be saved as a PDF and printed out to store in an emergency kit.

The interactive online planner helps people:

  • identify local hazards;
  • choose emergency meeting places in case of evacuation or separation;
  • document emergency contacts, medical and insurance information; and
  • get tips for turning off/on utilities and protecting homes from wildfires.

Access the Emergency Ready Planner to create your plan here: https://PreparedBC.ca/EmergencyReady.

BC Wildfire Service Mobile app

The Province is taking action to keep people and communities safe and informed during wildfire season. People can now get up-to-date information on wildfire events and conditions throughout the province on the updated BC Wildfire Service app that has multiple features, including:

  • improved user experience on all devices – mobile, tablet and computer – with a better look, feel and functionality; and
  • more features and information:
    • interactive map with wildfire perimeters, weather, smoke and road conditions, and evacuation information;
    • wildfire dashboard with incident stats, updates and daily situation reports;
    • ability to customize notifications and save location and incident information; and
    • ability to report a wildfire in-app or offline if not in cell service range.

The BC Wildfire Service app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Drought Information Portal

Drought is a long period with below normal rain or snow that may result in shortages of the water needed to drink, grow food, and keep fish, animals and the environment healthy.

The Drought Information Portal is a tool to help communities, farmers and businesses understand how drought could impact their region so they can prepare and take action.

  • The portal is a single source for current and historical drought levels, watershed conditions, and other precipitation, streamflow, snowpack and groundwater data by geographic region.
  • Each region is assigned a drought classification level using a 0 to 5 scale, with 5 being the most severe, based on water supply from snow, rain and rivers and risk of adverse impacts.
  • Adverse impacts to people and the environment at drought level 3 are possible, level 4 likely, and level 5 almost certain.
  • Local conditions within a region may vary depending on water storage, supply and demand in each community.

In 2023, 80% of the province experienced severe drought conditions. As of May 8, 2024, 40% of the province is already classified with drought levels between 3 and 5.

For more information about regional drought levels, visit: https://droughtportal.gov.bc.ca

Contacts:Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
Media Relations
250 896-7365

BACKGROUNDER 2

Current conditions

As of May 8, 2024, there were 109 active wildfires burning around the province, three of which were classified as out of control. This time of year, the majority of wildfires are human-caused, but despite the dry conditions, B.C. is below the 20-year average for new wildfire starts. Wildfire activity is forecast to increase in the coming weeks and months if there continues to be limited precipitation throughout the province. After receiving less than half the normal amount of rain in April, underlying fuel conditions remain extremely dry in the southern and central Interior as well as throughout northeastern B.C. Category 2 and 3 open burning prohibitions are now in effect for:

  • Prince George Fire Centre;
  • Cariboo Fire Centre;
  • Kamloops Fire Centre; and
  • parts of the Northwest Fire Centre.

As of May 1, 2024, the provincial snowpack was extremely low averaging 66% of normal across B.C., based on the average from 1991 to 2020.

Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies

The Province is taking several early steps to prepare for the wildfire and drought season, including working year-round with local governments and First Nations to help keep people and communities safe and informed.

This includes work stemming from the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies, which released 31 recommendations in April 2024 focused on four key themes:

  • enhancing the use of predictive fire technology;
  • expanding wildfire training and prevention programs;
  • strengthening local response co-ordination (including local and municipal fire departments); and
  • supporting people with timely and accessible information about evacuation orders and alerts.

To read the full list of task force recommendations, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-management/emergency-management/emergency-activation/em-taskforce

Wildfire preparedness

The Province continues working with communities to prepare for wildfire season and implementing the task force recommendations, including these key steps already announced this year:

  • launching a dedicated wildfire training and education centre at Thompson Rivers University to welcome the province’s future wildfire fighters;
  • increasing the use of new technology to better predict wildfire movement and growth;
  • funding for communities to better support evacuees;
  • readying more volunteers to support evacuees;
  • boosting wildfire-fighting fleet and equipment; and
  • enhancing wildfire recruitment tactics.

Since 2022, the BC Wildfire Service has increased permanent full-time staff by 55%, with more planned. Budget 2024 provides another $38 million to support stable, year-round staffing, including fire-crew leaders and front-line staff who provide structure protection, prevention and risk reduction, and wildfire land-based recovery.

Drought preparedness

The Province is taking action to keep people and communities safe through drought now, and in the years to come, by:

  • monitoring drought conditions so everyone has the information they need;
  • supporting farmers and food producers with new ways to save and store water on farms, find feed for animals, and access other financial supports when they need it;
  • making sure communities have water for people and animals;
  • building better infrastructure to improve drinking-water systems, manage water levels in lakes and rivers, and keep watersheds healthy;
  • protecting fish from long-lasting harm that could take generations to recover; and
  • making sure industry is doing their part to use less water.

Contacts:Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
Media Relations
250 896-7365

BACKGROUNDER 3

Be prepared

Emergency Preparedness Week is an annual reminder to plan and prepare for an emergency. Knowing what to do will reduce stress and help keep you and your family focused and safe.

  • Identify the hazards in your community (wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.).
  • Make an emergency plan for you and your family.
  • Gather supplies to build an emergency kit and grab-and-go bags.
  • Learn what happens in an evacuation.
  • Prepare and protect your home.

Find guides, resources and the Emergency Ready Planner here: https://PreparedBC.ca

Wildfire

Current dry conditions and prolonged drought are setting the stage for another challenging wildfire season. At this time of year, human activity is the main cause of wildfires.

To help prevent wildfires:

  • check for fire bans and restrictions;
  • know the current fire danger rating in your area;
  • use caution when open burning or participating in activities that could cause a wildfire;
  • install spark arrestors on off-road vehicles to stop sparks from exiting the tailpipe; and
  • camp responsibly:
    • keep campfires smaller than half a metre and create a fire break one metre around them;
    • never leave a fire unattended; and
    • make sure campfires are completely out and ashes cool to touch before leaving.

FireSmart your home to help protect it from wildfire:

  • clean roof and gutters of leaves and pine needles;
  • keep firewood, sheds and outbuildings at least 10 metres away from your home;
  • remove bark mulch and other flammable landscaping from around your home;
  • install weather stripping and screens to help prevent embers from entering your home; and
  • relocate and safely store propane tanks and other explosive items.

If there is a wildfire in your area:

  • Pay attention to updates and instructions from local officials.
  • Follow all evacuation alerts and orders: https://EmergencyInfoBC.ca.
  • Register at an evacuation reception centre or online to access supports: https://ess.gov.bc.ca
  • Download the BC Wildfire Service app to get updates on wildfire activity.
  • Don’t return home until it’s safe and then follow re-entry instructions.

For more tips to prepare for wildfire, visit: https://PreparedBC.ca

Drought

B.C. experienced a severe drought last year and remains at high risk this year. The Province is supporting communities, farmers and business efforts to prepare for drought and use less water.

Everyone can help save water. Small changes make a big difference when we do them together.

  • In many areas, residents are the largest water users. Imagine how much more water could be saved if every person in took these easy actions to save water at home:
    • water lawns only one hour a week, save 37,000 litres a month;
    • turn off the tap to brush teeth, save 11,000 litres a year;
    • cut showers by a minute, save 2,700 litres a year;
    • fix a leaky toilet, save 350,000 litres a year;
    • skip the car wash, save 260 litres a vehicle; and
    • wear clothes more than once, save 200 litres per load.
  • Other ways to save water, if you’re able:
    • plant drought resistant gardens and lawns; and
    • invest in water-efficient taps, toilets and washers or install rain barrels to collect water; many communities offer rebates or incentives.

Most importantly, follow local water restrictions. Check with your community for details.

For more tips and to learn how B.C. is preparing for drought, visit: https://gov.bc.ca/drought

Heat

People are encouraged to prepare for hot weather and make a plan to stay safe:

  • Know ways to cool down – take cool baths or showers, drink plenty of water.
  • Find cool places inside and outside the home – libraries, community centres, cooling centres.
  • Check on loved ones at higher risk – older adults, people with chronic health conditions, especially if they live alone.

For more tips, review the Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/embc/preparedbc/preparedbc-guides/preparedbc_extreme_heat_guide.pdf

Contacts:Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
Media Relations
250 896-7365

IHT6

NationTalk Partners & Sponsors Learn More