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About ESS
What is ESS?
Who is Responsible
History of ESS
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List of Acronyms

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Emergency Social Services (or ESS) is a provincial emergency response program. ESS are those services required to preserve the well-being of people affected by an emergency or disaster.

NOTE: Translations of the following information is available in the following languages:

For more detailed information about the ESS program, see the on-line course titled "Introduction to Emergency Social Services" available on the Emergency Management Division, Justice Institute.


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Helping people

Helping people

ESS plays an important role in emergency management in BC by:

  • Helping people to remain independent and self-sufficient;
  • Helping people to meet their basic survival needs during a disaster;
  • Reuniting families and individuals separated by disaster;
  • Providing people with accurate and up-to-date information about the emergency; and
  • Helping people to re-establish themselves as quickly as possible after a disaster.


When is ESS provided?

Road closure

Road closure

Although ESS is designed to provide services to individuals affected by large complex disasters or emergencies, ESS may also be provided during smaller emergencies; for example a single house fire or emergencies affecting 1 to 2 families in a community.



What services are provided by ESS?

Volunteer exercise

Volunteer exercise

ESS provides temporary relief to individuals and families so they can begin to plan their next steps to recover after a disaster.

ESS provides primary services such as:

  • food;
  • lodging;
  • clothing; and
  • family reunification.

Volunteers in the community

Volunteers in the

ESS may also provide specialized services such as:

  • emotional support services;
  • first aid;
  • child minding;
  • pet care; and
  • transportation services.


Who provides ESS?

Moblie Support Team training session

Mobile Support Team
Training Session

In BC, local authorities are responsible for planning and operating ESS. ESS is provided by local volunteers and staff.

Approximately 5,000 volunteers donate their time and energy as part of ESS teams located in communities throughout BC. Volunteers and staff of ESS Support Organizations also have important roles in providing ESS.

Every local authority in BC should have an ESS team. The leader of the ESS team is the ESS Director (or ESSD).


How is ESS provided?

ESS teams assist people affected by disaster, usually at Reception Centres. Reception Centres may be located at the local community centre, recreation centre, church, or school.

Reception Centre in Lillooet

Reception Centre
Banner at Entrance

ESS teams may also provide services in the following settings:

  • outreach services to those unable to leave their homes;
  • mass care (lodging and feeding) to evacuees during a major disaster;
  • on-site services to response workers and others.


For how long is ESS provided?

ESS is typically available for 72 hours. During these first 72 hours, evacuees should immediately plan their next steps by contacting their insurance agents, families and friends, or local non-profit agencies.

The ESS Office may authorize an extension of ESS services, in exceptional circumstances, on a case by case basis.


What do ESS teams do to prepare?

Mobile Support Team volunteers prepare kits

Mobile Support Team
volunteers prepare kits

The major tasks of ESS teams are the following:

  • identifying facilities suitable for use as Reception Centres and Group Lodging facilities;
  • recruiting and training volunteers and/or staff;
  • establishing linkages with key local emergency responders and non-government disaster agencies;
  • establishing relationships with local businesses and service organizations to supply goods and services during emergencies.


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Page Updated: 2006 May 16