The threat of wildfires and floods combined with the COVID-19 pandemic presents a double-whammy to residents, volunteers, and emergency services.
To help ensure physical distancing during evacuations, the provincial government announced today (May 6) that evacuees can register themselves on the digital Emergency Support Services (ESS) platform.
B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth explained in a news release that after the 2017 wildfire season, the provincial government began a transition from an outdated paper-based system to a digital system.
The system also provides referrals, basic reporting, and access to support resources for shelter, food, and clothing while also supporting direct payments to evacuees and suppliers.
Online registration helps to alleviate volunteers from these tasks while allowing them to refocus on the urgent needs of vulnerable citizens. It also helps to protect volunteers who may be among groups vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“The new virtual registration system for emergency supports allows us to keep all our ESS volunteers,” City of Kamloops chief administrative officer David Trawin stated in a news release. “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 system, which will continue to undergo improvements, previously ran as a pilot project in 2019 in Prince George, Kamloops, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
Meanwhile, the official B.C. Wildfire Service mobile app is also now available for free.
The app offers real-time wildfire information, an interactive fire-related map, wildfire statistics from the current season, and tweets from the B.C. Wildfire Service’s Twitter account.
The map, which can be customized, includes information ranging from fire danger ratings and area restrictions to driving advisories and closures.
The “Near Me” function provides information within a 50-kilometres radius of the user’s current location.
The app also offers the ability to report fires that will automatically generate map coordinates of the user’s current location and what information to provide.