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.

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Last updated: June 6, 2022 

The road to modernization

The existing Emergency Program Act was introduced 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 the EPA 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, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) 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)


Where we are now

After a pause due to the 2021 wildfire season, and the unprecedented atmospheric river last November, EMBC embarked on an engagement reset in March 2022, providing a full update to key partners on the work to modernize BC's emergency management legislation. That work includes co-development with Indigenous partners to ensure a new Act supports more effective emergency management and aligns with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 

Because co-development is critical to the success of new emergency management legislation, it's imperative we take the time to get it right. The Province is now targeting the introduction of new legislation for spring 2023, ahead of the hazard season, to make up for engagement interruptions in 2021. 

Updates will be provided over the coming months, including the status of regulation development and implementation planning. 

Indigenous voices: Co-development 

In 2019, British Columbia passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The Act establishes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as the overarching framework for reconciliation in the province.

Under this historic Act, the BC 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, EMBC is participating in a legislative co-development process with Indigenous groups alongside its engagement with other key partners.
This process is being led by EMBC in partnership with a First Nations Leadership Council, Modern Treaty Nations and Indigenous government representatives. Work is also continuing with the Métis Nation of BC, the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, and the First Nations Health Authority.

The outcome of co-development will inform the new legislation, creating pathways for greater understanding and mechanisms for shared decision making. We‘ll be providing further updates on this work as it progresses. 

Related emergency management news

Flood preparedness

Seasonal flooding, known as freshet, is underway. It’s important to take time to prepare and understand what to do before, during and after a major flood in your area. 

Get flood ready

Extreme Heat Guide

Extreme heat is dangerous for the health and wellbeing of our communities and is responsible for the highest number of weather-related deaths annually. 

This guide outlines basic readiness steps and heat specific considerations for your emergency plan.

Wildfire preparedness

Wildfire can threaten homes, businesses and vital infrastructure. If you live in an area at risk of a wildfire, it’s important that you take time to get ready. Understand what to do before, during and after a wildfire.

Wildfire graphic

Disaster risk reduction

Climate change is increasing the frequency of floods, wildfires and severe weather. Other hazards, ranging from power outages and disease outbreaks to earthquakes and tsunamis, also pose a risk to B.C. But risks can be reduced and resiliency increased through disaster risk reduction.