Legislation that deals with emergency management in B.C. needs to be completely rewritten, said Dave Peterson, assistant deputy minister of Emergency Management BC.
“Someone like me who works in the provincial government, but no different that any of you in your communities, knows how important that sort of fundamental piece of legislation is,” Peterson told delegates at the North Central Local Government Convention during a session focused on wildfire and flood and community risk held Friday, May 10.
“The Emergency Program Act in B.C. is very, very, very outdated and we are completely rewriting it, bringing it up to speed with everyone we have learned over the last few years.”
Focus of EMBC in the past has been on responding to emergencies, but over the last couple of years, has gotten into the recovery.
“We are seeing now it’s mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery — all four of those pillars are critical to moving forward.”
He said the updated Emergency Program Act will align with all four pillars.
The updated act will also cover elements such as readily available funding and improved financial assistance, he said.
“We have already started some engagement with communities through UBCM, and with First Nations.”
A public discussion paper will be shared in the fall, that was recently completed, and Peterson said it will take two years before the new legislation is in place.
“Over the last couple of years we learned a lot about the improvements that are needed in the recovery side. We just finished, and it got endorsed by cabinet what we are calling an Interim Disaster Recovery Framework,” he added.
“One of the really significant pieces in the framework is to better organize the provincial government to support communities and individuals in recovery.”
After the 2017 wildfires, when he inherited the recovery program, it was apparent the provincial government did not have a good organization in place, he added.
“We had lot of agencies that weren’t really sure what their roles were, they weren’t necessarily talking to each other and I think some of the worse cases were where we were going into one community not knowing someone else had just been there the day before or the morning before asking the same questions.”
Recovery and disasters impact every department of government, he said.