Emergency Evacuee Guidance During COVID-19

In all emergencies, evacuees are under a great deal of stress. Providing services to all people in a respectful, caring, and culturally safe environment is key to a successful recovery. COVID-19 poses challenges with the delivery of supports. They may be delivered through alternative means in order to protect responders, essential service workers and evacuees.

Your local or First Nations government is responsible for planning for and responding to emergency events within their jurisdiction. This includes coordinating the provision of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and incidentals for evacuees. Governments work closely with health authorities to ensure medical services for residents.

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Evacuation Stages

Depending on the severity of the situation, an evacuation alert or order may be issued. It's important to understand the different stages.

  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice
  • Evacuation Order: You are at risk. Leave the area immediately
  • Evacuation Rescinded: All is currently safe and you can return home

To be ready, know your hazards and follow PreparedBC's guides to prepare yourself, family, home or business in case an evacuation is ordered.

What to do when you receive an Evacuation Order

During an Evacuation Order, evacuees should do the following:

  1. Follow instructions on where to go provided by your Local Authority or government
  2. Visit Emergency Info BC or follow @EmergencyInfoBC for news and updates
  3. Wait for the evacuation to be rescinded before returning home

Lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive

If you have been lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive and receive an evacuation order to leave home:

  • Connect with your case manager to receive latest health system information pertinent to evacuation
  • Your local or First Nations government will provide you with the appropriate COVID-19 pos reception site
  • If possible
    • Evacuate by your own vehicle. If you do not have a personal vehicle, advise your case manager for instructions.
    • Maintain physical distancing while travelling 
    • Proceed immediately to designated accommodations using the most direct, safe route

Under Self-isolating Order or Have Symptoms

If you receive an Evacuation Order and are under a self-isolate order (for example temporary foreign workers (TFW), recently returned to Canada, part of a contact tracing investigation) or someone in your family have confirmed symptoms ​using the B.C. Self-Assessment tool:

  • Self-isolation Order only: connect with your case manager for health system information and direction 
  • If possible evacuate by your own vehicle. If you do not have a personal vehicle follow guidance for public transportation
  • Proceed immediately to designated accommodations or a reception centre (if necessary)
  • Continue to follow the Provincial Health Office advice on physical distancing, frequently washing your hands and avoid touching your face

Where to go if you receive an Evacuation Order

Only travel to ESS support locations designated by your local or First Nations' government. Supports will not be available if you travel to a non-designated location.

Evacuees should first look to use their own resources, such as insurance, to support themselves. Staying with friends or family (also referred to as billeting) is not recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you don't have your own resources the ESS program may be able to support you. 

Delivery of Supports

Evacuees are encouraged to follow the direction of your local or First Nations' government.

Each jurisdiction will be different, however some can perform the following support services remotely. 

  • Evacuee registration
  • Needs assessments
  • Providing information
  • Referrals for ESS supports (including food, accommodation, transportation, incidentals and clothing)

If in-person delivery of support is required, ESS responders will follow public health officer recommendations, including frequent hand washing and physical distance.

Group Lodging

Group lodging under the ESS program is not supported by EMBC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Depending on the size of the evacuation, local and First Nations governments may seek to use economical and efficient methods for lodging evacuees. This may include working with hotels or alternative lodging operations. 

Follow the direction of your local or First Nations' government for information on support options available.

Reception Centres

Each jurisdiction has unique needs and operations. If you do go to a modified reception centre you can expect:

  • To be placed in accommodation quickly with further needs assessed after
  • To remain physically distant from other evacuees
  • Clear information posted on reception centre rules
  • Extra precautions taken to ensure your safety

Updated: April 30, 2020