The BC Government is spending $80 million in a bid to help communities step up their emergency preparedness.
Almost half the money will go to the Union of BC Municipalities – including $20 million to plan and implement structural flood protection projects – the idea being that communities know best what kinds of disasters they may need to brace for.
“One of the reasons we are parking this $32 million dollars with the UBCM is because they’re in touch with what’s happening at the local level,” says Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto. “They will really support us in ensuring that the money goes to the appropriate projects.”
Since BC is so big, Yamamoto says she expects municipal priorities on emergency preparedness to vary.
“Some of the first steps that communities have to take in order to become more resilient is to identify what the risks are. In areas like Prince George, the risk may be flooding or fire and areas in on the southern coast, earthquake obviously is a major risk.”
Funding will also go toward seismic safety initiatives and local government emergency preparedness,
$1.63 million will go to the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. to support road rescue and fire safety and prevention. Many of the organizations receiving money are volunteer-run.
“So many areas in British Columbia are serviced by volunteers and they do an incredible job. They will be receiving funding to help – whether it’s training or upgrading equipment.”
The Salvation Army will receive $700,000 to retrofit mobile food vans and train volunteers to run them in the event of a major disaster.
While disasters can often feel like events that happen to other people or in the distant future, Yamamoto says being properly prepared is extremely important – and that means more than having a stash of canned food in the basement.
“One of the challenges that we have is to actually increase awareness of the importance of being prepared and that’s not just think repaired at home but being prepared at work.”
You can find information on how to build an emergency preparedness kit here.