Emergency Support Services (ESS) is provided on a short-term basis (generally up to 72 hours) to preserve the emotional and physical well-being of evacuees and response workers in emergency situations.  The ESS program helps people affected by large emergencies, but may also assist during smaller emergencies such as house fires or disasters affecting a few members of a community.

ESS often depends on volunteers to plan and provide services, including:

  • Recruiting and training other volunteers;
  • Working with local businesses, service organizations and government agencies;
  • Housing and feeding people forced from their homes;
  • Connecting people forced from their homes with needed services; and
  • Supporting other emergency responders.

Who is ESS?

Emergency Support Services, also known as Emergency Social Services in some communities, is a program of the provincial government, facilitated at the local level in more than 150 municipalities across British Columbia.  Most communities deliver these services with municipal assistance and roughly 5,000 volunteers across the province.

Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, ages and abilities, but they all share the common goal to give back to the community by helping others.

Emergency Management BC provides support for registered volunteers and furnishes the essential legal authority to recognize volunteers as a part of the "official" government response.  As such, volunteer responders become eligible for Worker's Compensation Benefits and liability insurance.

If  you are interested in becoming part of the ESS team? Learn how you can volunteer today.

What is the Role of ESS?

Emergency Support Services (ESS) provides short-term assistance to British Columbians who are forced to leave their homes because of fire, floods, earthquakes or other emergencies. This assistance could include food, lodging, clothing, emotional support and family reunification. The goal of ESS is to:

  • Help people to remain independent and self-sufficient
  • Help people meet their basic survival needs during a disaster
  • Reunite families separated by disaster
  • Provide people affected by disaster with accurate and up-to-date information
  • Help people re-establish themselves as quickly as possible after a disaster

What Services are Provided?

British Columbians forced from their homes by fire, floods, earthquakes or other emergencies may receive emergency support services for up to 72 hours. Services may include food, lodging, clothing, emotional support, information about the crisis, and family reunification. There may also be special services like first aid, child minding, pet care and transportation.

When people are forced to evacuate their homes, the ESS program will often direct them to Reception Centres or Group Lodging facilities.

Experience from previous disasters indicates that as few as 10 to 25% of the population may require assistance.  Even if evacuees don’t require assistance, they will be encouraged to go to a Reception Centre to register and get current information regarding the disaster.  Once evacuees’ immediate survival needs have been met, evacuees will continue to be welcomed at a Reception Centre where emotional support, additional information and directives regarding the emergency response will be provided.

Reception Centres

A Reception Centre is a safe place where people can go to receive:

  • Information about the emergency;
  • Assistance meeting their basic needs; and
  • Help planning their recovery from the disaster.

Reception Centres are often located in community centres, recreation centres, churches or schools.

Reception Centres provide evacuees with:

  • Meals if they are without food or food preparation facilities;
  • Clothing, blankets and toiletries;
  • Temporary lodging if they are unable to find lodging for themselves; and
  • Assistance finding and re-uniting with loved ones.

Reception Centres may provide specialized services, including:

  • Emotional support;
  • First aid and other health services;
  • Child minding;
  • Pet care; and
  • Transportation.

The services offered at Reception Centres vary depending on the type of emergency.

Group Lodging

Group Lodging is a safe place where people can go to:

  • Sleep and eat;
  • Receive specialized care, including multicultural services and transportation; and
  • Health services such as first aid and emotional support.

Group Lodging is often located in community centres, recreation centres, churches or schools, and could even be located in a tent depending on what is available in the community.

Whether or not Group Lodging is opened depends on many factors including the size of the emergency, the availability of commercial lodgings and the number of responders.

Emergency Support Services (ESS) Volunteers

Interested in volunteering? We’re always  looking for additions to our teams.

Emergency Support Services (ESS) and its volunteers provide short-term assistance to British Columbians who are forced to leave their homes because of fire, floods, earthquakes or other emergencies.  Throughout the province, thousands of ESS volunteers train and prepare so that when an emergency or disaster affects their community they are ready to help.

ESS volunteers are trained to provide for the immediate needs of evacuees and emergency responders affected by an emergency or disaster.  ESS volunteers also gain valuable personal preparedness and leadership skills while experiencing some marvellous camaraderie.

Personal Disaster Assistance (PDA) Team, a specialized component of the overall ESS team, who provide support for evacuees of small emergency situations involving fewer than four families displaced from their homes due to fire, flood, or toxic exposures.

For more information on how you can become a part of our essential volunteer network, email us at emo@pittmeadows.ca

Learn how to create emergency plans, and how to get involved in emergency preparedness efforts by joining organizations like the Emergency Support Services ProgramRidgeMeadows Search & Rescue or the Amateur Radio Society.

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