Modernized emergency management legislation

Last updated: November 28, 2023

Where we are now

On November 8, 2023, the Emergency and Disaster Management Act came into force, replacing the Emergency Program Act.

The updated legislation reflects the realities of the modern world including global pandemics, security threats and climate change, and shifts from focusing on emergency response to the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery.

While some powers and duties under the Act are now in effect, others will be brought into force through regulation. See the resources section for guidance to support implementation of what is currently in effect.

The full text of the legislation is available online.

Public engagement underway

As part of the phased implementation of the legislation, the Province is developing regulations that are anticipated to be introduced through 2025.

Broad engagement is currently underway on the development of regulations for local authority emergency management and post-emergency financial assistance. There are various ways you can participate:

  • Provide a written submission by January 31, 2024
  • Read and respond to blog posts about post-emergency financial assistance (currently known as disaster financial assistance or DFA) by January 31, 2024
  • Email if you are interested in joining a virtual session for First Nations rights holders in January 2024

Please visit our engagement site to participate.

Interim resources

New guidance and informational materials are being added on a regular basis. Subscribe to this page to be notified when new materials are added.

Read the Emergency and Disaster Management Act

Guidance documents

Technical paper - B.C.’s Modernized Emergency Management Legislation: A New Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Response, and Recovery (PDF)
​The technical paper is a comprehensive document to help local authorities and emergency management practitioners prepare for implementation of the new legislation.


Interim guidance on Indigenous Engagement Requirements (PDF, 217KB)
Overview of interim guidance on Indigenous engagement requirements for local authorities.

When Does B.C.’s New Emergency Management Legislation Come into Effect? (PDF, 183KB)
Information key components now in force and those coming into effect through regulations.

Multijurisdictional Emergency Management Organizations (PDF, 152KB)
This document introduces the concept of how multiple jurisdictions can formally collaborate on emergency management.

Definition of Emergency (PDF, 190KB)
Explanation of the updated definition of emergency.


New Emergency and Disaster Management Act introduced provides an overview of the Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

New Emergency and Disaster Management Act – Risk assessments provides an overview of new requirements related to risk assessments.

New Emergency and Disaster Management Act – Recovery period provides an overview of the new recovery tool available to local authorities.

EMCR/BC Association of Emergency Managers webinars are recorded webinars from July to September 2023, that provide an overview of key policy concepts including in the Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

Overview of major policy concepts

Implementation of the new emergency management legislation will be phased in over time.

The former Emergency Program Act focused heavily on the response phase of emergency management. The new legislation shifts to address all four phases of emergency management—mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery—and includes rules, obligations, or authorities related to each phase. 


Guiding principles and recognition of Indigenous rights

The new legislation includes guiding principles that establish a framework for collaboration between different orders of government, reflect the Sendai framework, and acknowledge the relationship between climate change and emergency management. The guiding principles also recognize that the inherent right of self-government of Indigenous peoples includes authority to make laws in relation to emergency management.

In recognition of the increasing frequency of hazards and emergencies, particularly as a result of climate change, the legislation requires risk assessment not only of hazards, but how climate change may impact any given hazard. The information will help inform emergency management plans created by Provincial ministries, local authorities (e.g., municipalities and regional districts), and critical infrastructure owners.

The definition of emergency has been broadened to include modern day emergencies such as security threats (e.g., terrorism), transmissible diseases, and environmental toxins. The definition also includes impacts to cultural sites. 

New tools for the provincial government include procurement powers related to critical supplies and an ability to order assistance (e.g., require a municipality to host evacuees from another municipality). The legislation authorizes the Lieutenant Governor in Council to temporarily suspend or modify parts of other legislation during emergencies. A specific power to order business closures is available to both the provincial government and local authorities. The maximum durations of states of emergency are longer, with a provincially-declared emergency lasting up to 14 days (if declared by the minister) or up to 28 days (if declared by the Lieutenant Governor in Council), before any extension is required, and a locally-declared emergency lasting up to 14 days before any extension is required.

“Recovery periods” have been established and are available to the provincial government and local authorities to recognize the transition between response and recovery. When recovery periods are authorized by the provincial government, specific emergency powers necessary to support recoveries will remain available for renewable 90-day periods following a state of provincial or local emergency.

In alignment with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, and in recognition that Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination, Indigenous governing bodies (PDF) are recognized as decision-makers in emergency management.

In accordance with emergency management-related provisions of treaty settlement legislation, Modern Treaty Nations and the Nisga’a Nation are included as distinct forms of local authorities. In recognition of the unique relationship between the Province, the Modern Treaty Nations, and the Nisga’a Nation, oversight rules and obligations that apply to local governments do not apply to the Modern Treaty Nations or the Nisga’a Nation.

The legislation enables agreements with Indigenous governing bodies or joint or consent-based decision-making, using a framework established by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. To recognize the role of Indigenous governing bodies as decision-makers within a co-managed emergency management environment, the legislation authorizes agreements to coordinate the exercise of powers as well as plan, policies and programs related to the response and recovery phases. To promote cooperation and collaboration, the provincial government also has broad authority to enter into other forms of emergency management agreements with Indigenous governing bodies or Indigenous entities.  

Recognizing the benefits of sharing responsibilities for planning and of the collective exercise of powers during emergency events, local authorities, Indigenous governing bodies, and the provincial government have the ability to create or join multi-jurisdictional emergency management organizations.

Under the legislation, new requirements have been established for the provincial government and local authorities to consult and cooperate with Indigenous governing bodies in the preparation, response, and recovery phases. Critical infrastructure owners will also be required to consult and cooperate with Indigenous governing bodies in the preparation phase. Consultation and cooperation requirements related to risk assessments and emergency management plans will be phased in as regulations are made.

We are developing additional guidance and support on implementation of consultation and cooperation requirements.

The legislation recognizes the value and importance of Indigenous knowledges. Provincial ministries, local authorities, and critical infrastructure owners will be required to use any available Indigenous knowledge in their risk assessments and emergency management plans. The legislation includes protections for Indigenous knowledge. This means that Indigenous knowledge provided in confidence can only be disclosed if certain conditions are met.

Recognizing the importance of building an all-of-society approach to disaster risk reduction, emergency plans and risk assessments prepared by provincial ministries, local governments, and critical infrastructure owners will be required to address the needs of groups that are disproportionately impacted by emergency events. This includes addressing issues related to vulnerability, cultural safety, and intersectionality in the preparation of risk assessments, emergency management plans, training, and the delivery of services.

Given that the range of powers potentially exercised under the proposed legislation can temporarily impact the lives of individuals during times of crisis, various reporting requirements will be put in place to ensure powers are exercised appropriately. These include, but are not limited to, Minister’s reports to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and annual reports.

The legislation also introduces requirements for annual meetings, which Indigenous governing bodies and local authorities may choose to participate in, to review agreements and share feedback on how consultation and cooperation requirements are working.

There will be a full review of the legislation initiated within five years of it receiving Royal Assent.

When regulations are made, designated critical infrastructure owners will be required to conduct risk assessments, create emergency management and business continuity plans, and provide emergency management information upon request. The provincial government will be authorized to order critical infrastructure owners to take mitigation or preparation actions, and will be able to take steps to ensure the coordination of critical infrastructure owners during the response and recovery phases.

The new legislation recognizes the important roles volunteers play in all phases of emergency management. It provides liability protection for volunteers who are following official guidance related to the four phases of emergency management. It also authorizes the Province to establish standards, protocols, and procedures for volunteers.


Complementary Regulations

The Province is now working to update and develop regulations in core areas to support the legislation. The regulations are anticipated to be introduced in 2023 through 2025. Regulations will be developed in consultation and cooperation with First Nations and informed by engagement with Indigenous governments and organizations, local authorities, critical infrastructure sectors, service providers, and the public.

The core areas are outlined below:


General regulations are required to supplement the legislation. These are administrative in nature, for example establishing definitions or rules for parts of the legislation that contemplate regulations.

Emergency management roles and responsibilities for ministries will be modernized and clarified. This includes identification of lead ministries for hazards, such as wildfires and earthquakes, to ensure disaster risk and emergency management is embedded across all provincial government roles and responsibilities.

Once the regulations are in force, additional time will be provided to meet the new requirements.

Roles and responsibilities of local authorities, including requirements for the development of risk assessments, business continuity plans, and emergency management plans that cover all four phases of emergency management, will be modernized and clarified. The regulation will also finalize the framework for multi-jurisdictional emergency management organizations.

Once the regulations are in force, additional time will be provided to meet the new requirements.

In addition to consulting with Indigenous partners, local authorities, and the public, we are conducting a comprehensive program review that will help inform the policy framework and design for the modernized regulation.

Until new compensation and financial assistance regulations become effective, disaster financial assistance will continue to be administered under the Compensation and Disaster Financial Assistance Regulation made under the Emergency Program Act.

The regulation will identify responsibilities for critical infrastructure owners, including requirements related to risk assessments, business continuity plans, and emergency management plans that cover all four phases of emergency management.

Once the regulations are in force, additional time will be provided to meet the new requirements.

The regulation will complete the legislative framework for compliance and enforcement. A continuum of enforcement tools will be used, including fees, fines and administrative monetary penalties, along with dialogue and compliance agreements.


The road to modernization

The former Emergency Program Act was last updated in 1993 but has roots in Canada’s War Measures Act from 1914. Much has changed, and new legislation is needed to address modern realities like the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent floods and wildfires and the lasting impact such events have on people and communities.

B.C. took a significant step towards modernizing emergency management in 2018, by adopting the Sendai Framework, which was developed by the United Nations in 2015 and outlines international best practices for managing emergencies. The new Act formally aligns the Province with this leading-edge approach, and reflects:

In 2019, the Province committed to a broad public engagement process over multiple phases to ensure partner feedback was considered in drafting new legislation. Throughout 2019, EMBC held meetings with First Nations, local governments, Crown corporations and agencies, provincial and federal ministries, non-profit groups and other groups with a role to play in emergency management.

Engagement centered on the discussion paper entitled Modernizing BC’s Emergency Management Legislation (PDF, 3.4 MB), which outlined the proposed policy direction for legislation. This included reflecting lessons learned from the unprecedented flood and wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018 and addressing all four phases of emergency management (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery). It also set out how we aim to move to disaster risk reduction – preventing disasters where we can and lessening the impacts where we can’t.

The Discussion Paper invited comment and feedback from key partners and any other interested agencies, organizations and individuals. EMBC conducted some 172 meetings, webinars and teleconferences with partners and stakeholders, and received 239 written submissions from the public, other ministries and levels of government, communities, First Nations, businesses and industries, as well as from non-profit and volunteer organizations and emergency management practitioners. Feedback was accepted until January 31, 2020.

Legislative development and consultation work was largely paused in the March to August 2020 period, due to requirements associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Feedback on the Discussion Paper informed the What We Heard Report (PDF, 3.58 MB), which was released on August 31, 2020. This report summarizes feedback received from our partners and outlines the legislative path forward.

To account for any additional lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners were invited to respond to the What We Heard Report. Additional recommendations were collected during a final feedback period, which ran from August 31 to September 30, 2020. The additional feedback was generally positive and most of the original proposals in the Discussion Paper will proceed. However, a small number of proposals were not supported and will not proceed or will be modified. These changes are summarized in the What We Heard Summary Brief (PDF, 57 KB)

In 2019, British Columbia passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Under the Act, the B.C. government must take all necessary steps to ensure provincial laws are consistent with UNDRIP, and most importantly reflect and acknowledge the distinct nature and lived experience of First Nations. To meet this obligation, the legislative development process has been advanced in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous groups, alongside engagement with other key partners.

In 2022, we focused on developing the new legislation with First Nations partners. This included frequent discussions with technical teams representing the First Nations Leadership Council and member Nations of the Alliance of BC Modern Treaty Nations, policy consultations with First Nations, Indigenous leadership organization and service providers, and sharing the draft legislation. 

During this time, EMCR remained engaged with local governments and other stakeholders.