Emergency Services

Emergency Program Act Review

The Emergency Program Act (EPA) forms the legislative framework for the management of disasters and emergencies in British Columbia. It outlines the responsibilities of local governments, provincial authorities and crown corporations and the Province's emergency management program. In particular, it provides the authority to declare a state of emergency, in addition to requiring local governments, provincial ministries, crown corporations and other government agencies to develop emergency management plans and programs to respond to disasters, emergencies and catastrophies in British Columbia. The EPA has undergone minimal change since it was first introduced, in 1993.

In November 2016, following the release of a provincial discussion paper and engagement process, UBCM provided a submission to the Province that summarized local authority feedback, and included several overarching recommendations.

The provincial review was eventually put on hold, until recently when EMBC began a new review process. Following consultation with several stakeholder groups, including UBCM's Flood & Wildfire Advisory Committee, EMBC released a discussion paper, Modernizing BC's Emergency Management Legislation. UBCM has reviewed local government feedback received through this process, and provided a broad overview [PDF - 638 KB] of local concerns for provincial consideration. 

Correspondence / Documents 
Minister Mike Farnworth to UBCM Members re: EPA Discussion Paper [PDF - 552 KB] - Oct 2019
Province to UBCM re: Local Government Input to the Emergency Program Act Review [PDF - 510 KB]
 – Jan 2017
UBCM to Province re: Submission to Emergency Program Act Review [PDF - 1.2 MB] – Nov 2016
UBCM to Province re: Emergency Program Act Review [PDF - 93 KB] – Jan 2016
Province to UBCM re: Emergency Program Act Review [PDF - 437 KB] – Jan 2016

Emergency Program Act Input - Jan 2020
Emergency Program Act Discussion Paper
 - Oct 2019
UBCM, EMBC Partnering on EPA Modernization
 - Sept 2019
UBCM Analysis of EPA Review Feedback
, The Compass – Nov 2016
Deadline Extended for Emergency Program Act Input, The Compass – Feb 2016
Extension Provided for Emergency Program Act Review, BC Gov News – Feb 2016
Emergency Program Act Review Underway, The Compass – Jan 2016

911 Services in BC

In British Columbia, the 911 emergency system was developed in the 1980s. Today, there are a numbe rof Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) that operate to meet local needs. E-Comm, established in 1997 under provincial legislation, handles 99% of the Province's call volume. 911 services are paid through a landline levy or by local property taxpayers.

In March 2015, the provincial government released a discussion paper, Emergency Communications Service Delivery in British Columbia, Police Communication Centres and 9-1-1 Public Service Answering Points; and soon after, published a summary of stakeholder consultations. The Province’s strategic vision outlined requirements for addressing current challenges. At the April 2016 UBCM Executive meeting, the Board approved a recommendation to endorse the provincial discussion paper and proposed call answer levy, subject to an agreement with the Province on the establishment of an independent body for revenue administration.

The Province has recently re-started work on this initiative, in part due to a 2017 CRTC decision to require all telecommunictions service providers to have technology ready to provide Next Generation 911 services by 2020. UBCM participated on a provincial committee studying feasibility and support for a 911 call answer levy (CAL) on cellular devices. The committee included a wide range of stakeholders, meeting several times during summer 2019.

Minister Farnworth to UBCM re: CAL on cellular devices [PDF - 379 KB] - Dec 2019
UBCM to Minister Mike Farnworth re: CAL on cellular devices
 - Oct 2019
Province to UBCM re: 911 Emergency Communications Service Delivery [PDF - 212 KB]
 - Oct 2018
Province to UBCM re: 9-1-1 CAL on wireless devices [PDF - 25 KB]
 – Aug 2016
UBCM to Province re: 9-1-1 CAL on cellular devices [PDF - 92 KB] – July 2016
UBCM to Local Governments re: 9-1-1 CAL Feedback [PDF - 233 KB] – Oct 2013
Province to UBCM re: 9-1-1 CAL Working Group [PDF - 37 KB] – Nov 2012

UBCM Re-Affirs Support for 911 CAL - Nov 2019
Province Seeks Input on Emergency Communication
 – Apr 2015
9-1-1 Levy No Longer Under Consideration – May 2014
Province Wide Levy on Wireless Services – Nov 2013
Member Feedback Sought on Funding of 9-1-1 Services – Sep 2013
Funding Emergency 9-1-1 Services – Sep 2013

BC Flood and Wildfire Review

In December 2017, the provincial government appointed former MLA George Abbott and hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman to undertake a thorough review of the Province’s response to the 2017 flood and wildfire season. In addition to directly examining the actions taken by the Province, the review also included a consultation process, hearing from individuals, Indigenous communities, local governments, and other stakeholders.

Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia outlines the findings of the review, including 108 recommendations to improve disaster response. Among the recommendations are a number of options for the Province to enhance partnerships with local governments. These include support towards local emergency plans, better clarification around roles and responsibilities during an emergency, and establishing workshops and forums to help support information sharing, understanding, and identification of policy gaps. There is also an emphasis on a more streamlined and efficient response and recovery process.

In response to the independent review, the provincial government recently released an action plan, which among other things provides a progress update on implementation of the recommendations contained in the review. The action plan also acknowledges feedback received during the 2018 UBCM Convention, and a commitment to “engage with UBCM representatives into 2019.”

Prioritizing Emergency Management - Sept 2019

Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee

In January 2019, UBCM's Presidents Committee approved the formation of an advisory committee to provide local government feedback as the Province worked to implement recommendations from the independent Flood and Wildfire Review.

The EMBC-UBCM Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee was created to provide for local government input on local issues and priorities, as well as feedback and guidance as the Province developed solutions to identified issues. EMBC also used the Advisory Committee to provide regular updates regarding implementation of the 108 recommendations from the independent review, and the provincial outlook heading into the 2019 flood and fire seasons.

The Advisory Committee's mandate was expanded in June 2019 to include consultation as part of the ongoing Emergency Program Act review.

Committee Members
Councillor Arjun Singh, City of Kamloops (Co-Chair)
Leon Gaber, Executive Lead, Emergency Management Review Office, EMBC (Co-Chair)
Chair Art Kaehn, Fraser-Fort George Regional District
Chair Roly Russell, Kootenay Boundary Regional District
Chair Brad Sperling, Peace River Regional District
Chair Margo Wagner, Cariboo Regional District
Tarina Colledge, Emergency Management Specialist, Fraser Valley Regional District
Bob Lapham, CAO, Capital Regional District
Daniel Stevens, Director of Emergency Management, City of Vancouver
Travis Whiting, Fire Chief, City of Kelowna

Correspondence / Documents
Flood and Wildfire Advisory Committee Overview [PDF - 463 KB] - Sept 2019


Bhar Sihota
Policy Analyst
(604) 270-8226 x114

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