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B.C. prepares for fire evacuations, displacements amid health-care staffing crisis

The officials tasked with preparing for and responding to natural disasters in the province are bracing for widespread evacuations of B.C. communities as they eye tinder-dry conditions that are already prompting dire predictions of a brutal wildfire season.

Overnight lodging for displaced British Columbians, continuity of medical care, food and water, transportation corridors are all considerations by the two agencies responsible for the co-ordination of various provincial resources.

“With it being much hotter and drier (than usual), we anticipate more evacuations will be occurring in a larger scope and scale,” said Pader Brach, executive director of operations for the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness

“We are very aware we've had an early start to the season and what comes with that is increased efforts regarding planning and preparing for impacts to communities.” 

Brach echoed a warning from the BC Wildfire Service that it’s a matter of “when, not if” much of the province will face a potential wildfire evacuation this summer and he also encouraged planning in advance, including arranging to stay with friends and family and packing important documents in advance of an evacuation order.

During the pandemic, hotel rooms had been widely available for evacuees, but now that the tourism sector has bounced back, the ministry is compiling a list of community centres, gymnasiums, and campsites to host evacuees.


Health Emergency Management BC, the provincial agency responsible for co-ordination and cooperation between health authorities and other agencies, acknowledged that this year their job is particularly challenging considering the staffing crisis at hospitals like Surrey Memorial, which is already seeking urgent personnel support from outside the health authority. 

“We look at a variety of tools and techniques to organize ourselves, to communicate, so we can deliver more service with the same amount of people – it's difficult work,” said HEMBC provincial operations director, Gerry Delorme.

He said that two of the province’s four “hospitals in a box” are already in Prince George, in a strategic move to be prepared for wildfires like the historic Donnie Creek Complex, which has already forced people from their homes.

“When you think about evacuees, don't only think about long-term care homes or hospitals evacuating, when communities evacuate we have to maintain what we call ‘continuity of care,’” said Delorme. “People who reside in their homes may need dialysis, may need chemotherapy.”

When CTV News asked if he expected to hire more nurses through for-profit staffing agencies to fill the gaps, he said that while HEMBC advises health authorities on strategy and many other issues, staffing decisions and policies are up to them.


Late last year, British Columbia authorized the emergency text alert system, AlertReady, for use in flood, wildfire, amber alert, and other notifications. 

B.C. has been a laggard in using the technology with the capabilities poorly understood and unused during the fatal flooding in the 2021 atmospheric river event. Criticism reached a boiling point after that disaster and the policy was changed in the months that followed.

Alberta has already issued 135 texts related to wildfire warnings this year, with Nova Scotia sending 24; there have been six in B.C.

When CTV News asked Brach if he planned to use them proactively, for example to warn anyone entering the zone of an evacuation alert, he said that’s on the table but not a provincial decision.

“If requested by communities to utilize the broadcast intrusive or AlertReady tool, (the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness) certainly will be in a position to support communities to do that,” he said.

“We have to be flexible and we have to be able to move quickly when required.” Top Stories


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