Now is the Time for Decisive Action
Evacuations can be chaotic, nerve wracking and a time of worry and strain. Make yourself aware and be prepared. Fire fighters and other emergency personnel cannot work on the fire or other problems until life and safety issues are under control - that means YOU. Resisting evacuation consumes the rescuers precious time. Once you receive the information of the Evacuation Order, evacuate immediately. Delay can result in roadways being blocked by smoke, other materials or rescue equipment. Listen to emergency broadcasts and follow the directions of emergency personnel.
BE PREPARED, INFORMED, AND ORGANIZED. BE SAFE.
Whether you need to leave your home due to a quickly approaching fire, or because of rising flood waters, you should be aware of Evacuation Alerts and Orders, what they mean, and how to prepare yourself and your family. Depending on the nature of the emergency, BC has several various legal Acts which authorize evacuations:
- BC permits the head of a local authority to declare a State of Local Emergency, and that allows the RDN to order an evacuation should it be absolutely necessary;
- An Incident Commander at the scene of an emergency may implement evacuation on an 'ad hoc' basis for people at risk from unique emergency situations that occur with little or no warning. Support from the local authority Emergency Operations Centre will take place from that point on.
- An evacuation can also be ordered by the minister responsible for the Emergency Program Act if a provincial State of Emergency is declared;
- The order to evacuate can be given by the BC Fire Commissioner under the Fire Services Act and Forest Act.
- Ministry responsible for Health - the minister or local health board - Health Act - Chapter 161, Sec. 60/62;
- Ministry responsible for the Environment - Minister or designate - Waste Management Act
- Ministry responsible for Energy Mines - Energy and Minerals Division - Mines Act health Safety and Reclamation Code - Subject: page 3.
Regardless of which legal authority orders an evacuation, warning and implementation should follow the provincial standard of a three-staged process.
Stage 1 - Evacuation Alert
Be ready to leave on short notice. An evacuation alert advises the population at risk of the impending danger. At this point, the movement of handicapped persons, transient population, including vacationers, and in some cases, school population, and any voluntary evacuees, should become a priority.
Possible methods of warning the population at risk may include emergency notification systems, door knocking; media broadcasts; mobile public address (RCMP); telephone calls, and electronic media.
The Alert should identify hazard/emergency zone(s) and travel route(s); identify reception center locations; and advise the method of declaring an "All Clear" and procedure for issue of controlled re-entry passes.
Stage 2 - Evacuation Order
Leave the area now! The Evacuation Order should include; the time the Order is in effect; a pass form which can be used in the event that the evacuee has a need for controlled re-entry to the area, with instructions for its use.
All persons in the affected area are to be told that, in the interest of their own safety and considering the risk, they are now ordered to leave the area. The written Evacuation Order is to be in a consistent form. There is no discretion allowed in the Order, which clearly indicates immediate evacuation and relocation. The RCMP will enforce this Evacuation Order.
Stage 3 - Rescind
When the emergency that necessitated the evacuation is under control and the hazard/emergency zone is declared safe (habitable), a retraction of the Evacuation Order should be implemented. This is to be done using the same procedure as for a Warning. This procedure should advise the population at risk that the danger may reoccur itself and that an ALERT may be reinstated and the process recommences from Stage 1.
If you hear from a Media Information Release that an Evacuation is anticipated, be sure to note whether it is an Alert or an Order. How you respond is different for each stage, and important to remember. Following these guidelines helps first responders to help you more quickly and safely.
If an Evacuation Alert has been issued:
- Gather essential items such as medications, eyeglasses, valuable papers, immediate care needs for dependents, and valuable keepsakes. Include a couple of blankets and pillows. Be practical about what to take with you. Make them available for immediate access for a quick departure.
- Keep track of the location of all family members and determine a planned meeting place should an evacuation be called while separated.
- Immediately relocate large pets and livestock to an area outside of the evacuation alert.
- Arrange accommodation for your family in the event of an evacuation. Emergency Support Services will be available to provide reception centres and emergency relief for periods of 72 hours. Locations of activated reception centres will be provided by the RDN.
- Water vegetation adjacent to structures if water supplies and time permits.
- You MUST LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY. It is imperative that you report to the Reception Centre indicated or follow instructions provided by the RDN. This will allow for effective communications for the evacuation team, Emergency Operations Centre and other responders. Reporting to the reception centre or following instructions provided, facilitates contact by concerned friends or relatives, and in matching separated family members.
- If you need transportation to evacuate, advise the individual providing the notice of evacuation.
- Close all doors and windows in your home. Leave gates unlocked and clear driveways for fire fighter access.
- Keep a flashlight and portable radio with you at all times.
- Follow the directions of emergency personnel and obey traffic control. Travel will be one-way only out of your area to allow emergency vehicles access. Re-admission is not permitted until the Order is lifted.