Modernized emergency management legislation

Welcome to the information hub for the repeal and replacement of the Emergency Program Act (EPA). You'll find updates related to the legislative process and how government is working to modernize emergency management in British Columbia. 

This is a crucial first step in implementing the Sendai Framework, emphasizing the importance of disaster risk reduction and strengthening the four phases of emergency management — mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Subscribe to this page for the latest news. If you have additional questions, please contact

Last updated: September 19, 2023 

Where we are now

Climate-related emergencies are impacting our province at an unprecedented rate. Updated emergency management legislation will reflect the realities of the modern world including global pandemics, security threats and climate change, and shifts from focusing on emergency response to the four pillars of emergency management.

The proposed legislation was co-developed with First Nations, making it the first major land-based statute to be co-developed to ensure strong alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Public engagement underway

On September 19, 2023, the Province opened engagement on the development of regulations for local authority emergency management and post-emergency financial assistance. Two discussion papers that provide in-depth summaries of the objectives for the development of the regulations are posted on the gov Together BC site and written submissions will be accepted until December 31, 2023.

These regulations will complement B.C.’s modernized emergency management legislation. As part of the phased implementation of the new legislation, the Province is developing various regulations that are anticipated to be introduced starting in late 2023 and through 2025.

In the coming weeks, local authorities, small businesses, and individuals will be invited to sign up for workshops on the development of these regulations. We will also be launching an interactive discussion forum. Subscribe to this page to be notified about updates.

Technical paper and webinars

In July 2023, we released a technical paper that outlines the major policy concepts included in B.C.’s proposed emergency management legislation. It is intended to provide communities with information to help support implementation of the modernized legislation. The Province plans to introduce the legislation in fall 2023 and it will be reviewed within five years of receiving royal assent.

We partnered with the BC Association of Emergency Managers to deliver a series of webinars about the proposed emergency management legislation. Recorded sessions are available online.

The road to modernization section provides details about the timeline of events leading to where we are now.

Overview of major policy concepts

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

The current Emergency Program Act focuses heavily on the response phase of emergency management. The proposed legislation shifts to address all four phases of emergency management—mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery—and will include rules, obligations, or authorities related to each phase. 


Guiding principles and recognition of Indigenous rights

The proposed 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 proposed 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 will be broadened to include modern day emergencies such as security threats (e.g., terrorism), transmissible diseases, and environmental toxins. The definition will also be updated to include impacts to cultural sites. 

New tools for the provincial government will 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 proposed legislation will authorize the Lieutenant Governor in Council to temporarily suspend or modify parts of other legislation during emergencies. A specific power to order business closures will be available to both the provincial government and local authorities. The maximum durations of states of emergency will be 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 with a locally-declared emergency lasting up to 14 days before any extension is required.

“Recovery periods” will be established and 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) will be 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 will be 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 will not apply to the Modern Treaty Nations or the Nisga’a Nation.

The proposed legislation will enable 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 will authorize 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 will also have 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 will have the ability to create or join multi-jurisdictional emergency management organizations.

Under the proposed legislation, new requirements will be 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.

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

The proposed legislation will recognize 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 will include 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 will include 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 will also introduce 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 within five years of it receiving Royal Assent.

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. The proposed legislation will provide liability protection for volunteers who are following official guidance related to the four phases of emergency management. It will also authorize the Province to establish standards, protocols, and procedures for volunteers.


Complementary Regulations

The Province will need to update and develop regulations in core areas to support the proposed legislation. The regulations are anticipated to be introduced in late 2023 through 2025. Regulations will be co-developed with First Nations and informed by engagement with Indigenous governments/organizations, local authorities, critical infrastructure sectors, service providers, and the public.

The core areas are outlined below:


General regulations will be 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 existing 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 will formally align the province with this leading-edge approach, as well as reflect:

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, we are participating in a legislative co-development process with Indigenous groups alongside engagement with other key partners.

In 2022, we focused on co-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.