United Way BC releases new resources for emergency preparedness

They aim to make the information more accessible for seniors and families

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a birds’ eye view of of a forest shrouded by wildfire smoke
BC Forest Fire and Smoke over the mountain near Hope during a hot sunny summer day. British Columbia, Canada. Wildfire natural disaster

By: Yashita Dhillon, News Writer

As wildfire season approaches, United Way BC has released two emergency preparedness guidebooks, one targeted at seniors and the other at families. They provide detailed strategies to plan for potential natural disasters across BC’s varied regions, including checklists for emergency kits, detailed plans for evacuation scenarios, and tips on dealing with power outages and insurance matters.

The Emergency Preparedness Guide for Seniors, developed in collaboration with the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Katzie Seniors Network, was funded by the Ministry of Health. The Extreme Weather Preparedness Guide for Individuals and Families is designed to help residents prepare for extreme weather conditions and is supported by the province’s Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness.

The Peak spoke with Tobias Jones, the emergency response manager for United Way BC, who highlighted the need and nature of the guidebooks. Jones explained they primarily aimed to have all emergency preparedness related information in one place. The guidebooks also include tailored training to account for “personal circumstances and doing a personal assessment,” and training that “outlines the difference in types of responses to emergencies.”

Both guidebooks contain information about preparing beforehand for a variety of natural disasters and weather, including earthquakes, floods, and wildfires. It also takes into consideration care for those with disabilities, items for hearing and mobility, and service animal accountability. Both books have blank pages for individuals to write contact information, keep checklists, and medical information. 

It’s about bringing people together. It could be a simple thing as a block party, but that’s about building community in the face of an impact.” — Tobias Jones, emergency response manager, United Way BC

The guidebooks were also written with the knowledge that much of the extreme weather being warned against in the books are induced by climate change. BC has seen a spike in wildfire activity due to warming weather, especially in the drier summer seasons. 

The creation of these guidebooks was driven by the need for easy-to-understand emergency information that was readily accessible, especially with regards to media literacy. “A lot of the information around emergency preparedness exists online,” Jones said. United Way BC is distributing physical copies around BC, leveraging their connections with other non-profits and agencies.

Looking ahead, they plan to update these resources based on feedback from community workshops and the evolving nature of emergency response. “We retrospect every response we do, both internally and externally, and through that process, new tools and new ways of engaging are identified,” Jones said.

He also highlighted the importance of community engagement in enhancing the effectiveness of the guidebooks. “We’re currently working in the Fraser Valley after the 2021 floods. We’re still there, three years later, working in places such as Princeton and Merritt, that were both impacted by floods and fires, and the Fraser Canyon, the community surrounding Litton which was devastated a couple of years ago.” He stressed that engagement from local residents is crucial not just for immediate preparedness but also for long-term recovery and resilience. 

Jones highlighted, “It’s about bringing people together. It could be a simple thing as a block party, but that’s about building community in the face of an impact such as flooding.” 

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