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In British Columbia (BC), local authorities are responsible for planning and operating emergency responses within their jurisdictional areas, including Emergency Social Services (ESS).

The provincial government is responsible for assisting local authorities in this responsibility, and in major disasters the province will take a lead role in the response. The provincial government is also responsible for providing emergency response operations in unorganized areas of the province where there is no local government structure.

Government of British Columbia

The federal government, through Public Health Agency of Canada, supports ESS by providing such resources as a national stockpile of reception centre kits and mobile feeding units, developing guidelines, and monitoring emerging issues and trends.

Health Canada


What is the Legislative Framework?

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the legislative framework that provides for a comprehensive emergency management system and takes into account the range of hazards facing BC and the special circumstances pertaining to emergency response operations.

The Emergency Program Act (1996) provides the legislative framework for emergency management within BC, including a description of the powers and obligations of the provincial government and local authorities in planning for emergency response.

The Emergency Program Management Regulation (1994) outlines the key responsibilities of government ministries and corporations in the event of an emergency. The regulation includes a description of the duties of the Minister of Justice in the provision of ESS.

The Local Authority Emergency Management Regulation (1995) details the specific components which must be included in local emergency plans, as well as stating the powers and duties of the local authority in regards to emergency planning.

The Compensation and Disaster Financial Assistance Regulations outline the process for requesting compensation by an individual or a local government body following a disaster response.


What is the Role of the Local Authority?

A full definition of “local authority” is contained in the Emergency Program Act, but for most BC residents, the local authority is a municipality or regional district . The responsibility for planning and coordination of the local ESS response lies with the local authority.

Local Authority Emergency Management Regulation, 2(3)(f):

"coordinate the provision of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and medical services to victims of emergencies and disasters ..."

Local authorities may request assistance from the provincial government with their planning response or recovery needs, when and if required.

What is the Municipal Emergency Program Structure?


What is the Role of EMBC?

The Emergency Management BC (EMBC), Ministry of Justice, is responsible for the overall coordination of the provincial government’s emergency management system. ESS is an integral component of this framework.


What is the Role of the ESS Office?

The EMBC's ESS Office, provides provincial level support for local authorities who are responsible for planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters where short-term emergency social services are required.

The ESS Office works alongside other provincial ministries and non-government organizations, to coordinate provincial level resources in support of the delivery of ESS across British Columbia by local authorities.

EMBC and the ESS Office support local authorities by:

  • funding the ESS training program;
  • developing provincial policies and procedures;
  • providing a framework, including guidelines, standards and best practices, for use by local authorities and the ESS training program;
  • develop and maintain relationships with ESS Support Organizations;
  • the processing of invoices for lodging, food, clothing and other necessary expenses administered by community ESS teams during an emergency;
  • providing provincial support during a major disaster; and
  • negotiating federal and provincial ESS mutual aid in the event of a catastrophic disaster.

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Page Updated: 2013 January 14