Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC) is testing a new pilot project to streamline registration processes for evacuees affected by floods, earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
The first phase of the digital ESS System was rolled out in April in the Regional District of Central Okanagan, Kamloops, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Prince George.
The pilot project focuses on modernizing and digitizing the Emergency Support Services (ESS) system, allowing for self-registration options.
“The province has chosen us because we are a regional district and because of our emergency program—there’s more to it, there are five districts we deal with under our program,” said Sandra Follack, deputy chief of emergency management and communications for the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO).
“We have a lot of activation here,” she added, noting that’s a reason behind the province’s selection of the RDCO for the first rollout of the project.
The project, which is aimed to reduce wait times for evacuees registering at emergency reception centres, will allow for affected individuals to access services more quickly and efficiently.
“Because we do evacuations and sometimes a larger area evacuates at the same time, you’re all just sitting there waiting,” Follack said. “Right now, registration is all done by paper. This is computerizing it and bringing it up to a new era.”
Follack said the digital project is a win-win situation for the province and volunteers working for ESS.
More than 5,000 people across the province volunteer as ESS workers each year, assisting in identifying reception centres and group lodging; working with local businesses, government agencies and service organizations; and providing food and shelter for those evicted from their homes.
The new digital registration system would reduce processing time for volunteers, as affected individuals can self-register.
“Allowing residents to register themselves makes registration faster,” Follack said. “We’re trying to make this process as smooth as possible.”
Follack said those experiencing displacement due to evacuation are already under an immense amount of stress and registration at an evacuation centre shouldn’t add to that stress.
“We’re very honoured the province asked us to be a part of this project,” Follack said.