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How Vancouver prepares for emergencies

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Everyone has a role to play in making sure we all stay safe in emergencies.

Our responsibility

The City commits major resources to make our public buildings, roads, bridges, and you safe.

Like other local governments in BC, we lead the initial response to emergencies and disasters by:

  • Preparing emergency plans
  • Coordinating and managing emergency planning with first responders
  • Running emergency training and exercises with City staff and other first responders
  • Training volunteers to help deliver essential services and housing during a disaster
  • Providing basic services to those impacted by a disaster
  • Maintaining police, fire, and specialized teams (such as CAN-TF1 and Hazmat) to mobilize quickly in an emergency situation

We regularly share updates relevant for residents via our social media accounts. In the event of an emergency our @CityofVancouver External website Twitter account is a good source to follow. We will share information from the relevant emergency response organizations such as fire, police, the Port of Vancouver, and health authorities. Depending on the nature of the emergency or threat, we will provide further information and other sources to follow for critical information.

 

Bridge upgrades

The City owns and maintains 26 bridges throughout Vancouver. An $11 million project to seismically upgrade the older bridges, including the First Avenue viaduct, Granville Street Bridge, and the first phase of the Burrard Street Bridge, which has been completed.

Dedicated Fire Protection System (DFPS)

The City’s Dedicated Fire Protection System (DFPS) is a $52 million system that will make sure there is a reliable supply of water for fighting fires in the high-density areas of the downtown peninsula, Kitsilano, and Fairview Slopes.

The DFPS consists of two saltwater pumping stations and a dedicated earthquake-resistant pipeline.

The first pump station at False Creek was opened in September 1995. The second opened in Coal Harbour in February 1997. The pipeline protecting the downtown core and the Kitsilano/Fairview neighbourhoods was completed in 2003.

Stormwater management

The City has adopted new design guidelines and stormwater management techniques and is working toward replacing all combined sewer systems with separated sewer systems by 2050. This will stop untreated sewage from overflowing and entering our waterways. It will also reduce the risk of flooding if there is an  increase in rainfall, which can cause the sewers to overflow.

Mapping flood hazards

The City is mapping where Vancouver is vulnerable to flooding. This mapping will help with the development of the City's flood proofing plan, which includes new infrastructure needs, erosion control, and land use regulation changes.

Extreme weather response

Climate change is delivering more frequent extreme weather events. In response, the City continually updates its emergency management plans to respond to more frequent, simultaneous, and extreme disasters efficiently. 

Emergency Social Services

In case of a disaster, the City will open reception and group lodging centres to look after people who have to leave their homes.

  • Reception centres provide for the essential needs of people affected by a disaster
  • Group lodging centres provide temporary housing for people affected by a disaster

The locations of the reception and lodging centres will be determined by the type, location, and severity of the disaster, but will likely be in community centres or other pre-identified large facilities.

For smaller events—such as an apartment fire—we may open a single reception centre, to give evacuees a place to wait until they can go back home. Evacuees will receive food, shelter, and clothing. The centres may be open for several hours for smaller emergencies, or days (or even weeks), for larger emergencies.

Vancouver’s Emergency Social Services volunteers help to support this program.  

Please note that you and your family should be prepared to be self-sufficient in case of emergency as establishing and setting up reception and lodging centres takes time after an emergency, and accommodations and resources will be limited.

Public education

Vancouver has a public education program that can help you prepare for emergencies and disasters. Free emergency preparedness workshops are delivered weekly or on request to individuals and groups.

Specialized response

The City supports and trains specialized response teams for emergencies and disasters. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has a trained hazardous materials team that responds to threat of explosive and toxic material spills and leaks.

CAN-TF1, Vancouver’s urban search and rescue force, is a team of 120 members with medical, fire suppression, emergency response, search and rescue, and engineering expertise. CAN-TF1 responds to disasters in Vancouver, across Canada, and internationally.

Earthquake Preparedness Strategy

In 2014, the City developed the Earthquake Preparedness Strategy, a major component of our Emergency Preparedness Program. Currently, the City is implementing 56 actions identified in the strategy and is ready to respond to an earthquake at any time. It has put in significant work into assessing and addressing the risk and has taken action to reduce the impacts of an earthquake.

Regional collaboration

Emergency managers across the Lower Mainland work together to plan and coordinate regional emergency preparedness and response.

The Integrated Partnership for Regional Emergency Management in Metro Vancouver (IPREM) is an intergovernmental partnership between the Province of BC and Metro Vancouver. It is tasked to coordinate regional emergency management planning activities and collaborates with all levels of government and the private sector to create a disaster-resilient region.

Emergency communications

If telecommunications infrastructure is damaged, telephones, mobile phones, and internet may not work. The City has set up a partnership with an amateur radio operator society called VECTOR to provide reliable communications for emergency responders in the event of a major outage.

Consolidated radio and dispatch

E-Comm, the emergency communications centre for southwest British Columbia, provides 9-1-1 services and consolidated radio and dispatch services for first responders.

An integrated emergency communications system is critical to public safety. E-Comm’s multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional communications allow ambulance, fire, police, and other agencies to communicate clearly and reliably across the Lower Mainland.

Emergency Operations Centre

The City's dedicated Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is designed to act as a coordination and communications centre for any large emergency or disaster events that impacts Vancouver. It has been designed and built to withstand a major earthquake.

Contact the Office of Emergency Management

Phone: 3-1-1

emergency.management
@vancouver.ca

Emergency safety kits

Emergency safety kit

Did you know there is a 1 in 4 chance of a major earthquake in Vancouver within the next 50 years?

Be prepared, by creating emergency safety kits filled with supplies you will need if you are forced to evacuate your home.

Get instructions

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