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ESS FAQ's

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Emergency Social Services is British Columbia's province-wide community based emergency response program. Emergency social services are the basic services people need after their community is affected by an emergency or disaster. This includes food, shelter, emergency health care and public information.

What Does ESS Do?

As an integral part of the RDN Emergency Program, ESS can:
  • Help people to remain independent and self sufficient
  • Help people to meet their basic needs during a disaster
  • Reunite families separated by disaster
  • Provide people with accurate and up-to-date information about the situation at hand
  • Help people to re-establish themselves as quickly as possible after a disaster.
What Services are Provided?
Primary services include food, lodging, clothing, and family reunification. Specialized services include emotional support, child care, first aid and pet care. The Red Cross, St. John's Ambulance, the Salvation Army, the SPCA, amateur radio associations and many other volunteer organizations work together with ESS to provide disaster assistance services.
Who receives ESS?
  • Citizens of BC who have been displaced from their residence by a disaster or emergency
  • Travellers stranded as a result of the disaster
  • Response workers on assignment during a disaster or emergency.
When is ESS provided?
ESS is provided for incidents ranging from a single family house fire to calamities involving mass evacuation. Examples of events in BC involving ESS include:
  • Floods
  • Fires
  • Earthquakes
  • Oil spills
  • Blizzards
  • Landslides
How is ESS Provided?
ESS teams assist evacuees at designated emergency reception centers. ESS teams may also provide:
  • Outreach services for shut-ins
  • Group lodging (shelter and food) to evacuees during a major event
  • On-site support services for emergency response workers and others affected by disaster
  • On-site personal disaster assistance for small-scale incidents affecting one to two residences.
How long is ESS provided for?
ESS is typically available for 72 hours immediately following the start of an emergency. Assistance may be extended, in exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis. This interim relief allows people to immediately plan their next steps by contacting:
  • Insurance agents (if relevant)
  • Family and friends
  • Local non-profit agencies.
The success of ESS depends on the ongoing commitment of volunteers and other key stakeholders. If you are interested in volunteering, ESS can offer free accredited training from the Justice Institute of British Columbia, practical training and much more!

For further information on Emergency Planning & Preparedness please contact:
Transit and Emergency Planning Department
250-390-4111 | toll free at 1-877-607-4111 | e-mail: emergencyplanning@rdn.bc.ca