British Columbia’s rugged nature and breathtaking scenery make it a world-class tourism destination. More than 15 million people visit the province every year to explore its pristine coastline, rolling ranchlands, stunning forests and award-winning wine country.
But with that natural splendor comes some risk - wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and avalanches are just some of the natural disasters that can occur. Learning about the dangers and considering them in your travel plans can help ensure a safe and exciting visit.
B.C.’s forests and wildlands cover more than 94 million hectares. On average, there are nearly 2,000 wildfires in B.C. every year. About 92 per cent are contained to four hectares within the first 24-hours of discovery, but some may result in area closures or evacuation orders. Stay tuned to local media and follow these social media channels for updates: @BCGovFireInfo, and @EmergencyInfoBC on Twitter, and BC Forest Fire Information on Facebook. Also be sure to check for fire bans or restrictions before lighting a campfire.
B.C.’s coastline is a natural draw for vacationers, but when visiting, be aware that tsunamis are a rare but real threat. Learn the tsunami zone of the coastal community you’ll be in and how you can prepare. If you feel strong shaking, and are in or near the shoreline, move to high ground and don’t go back to the beach for a look.
British Columbia is located on the Ring of Fire – an area circling the Pacific Ocean basin along which 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes occur. If you feel the ground shaking, Drop, Cover and Hold On. When the shaking stops, count to 60 before getting up, allowing falling objects to settle. Listen carefully to instructions from local government officials and stay tuned to local media and @EmergencyInfoBC for updates. Keep phone lines and cell networks clear unless a life is at stake. If you are on or near the shore when an earthquake occurs, move to high ground immediately as a tsunami may have been generated.
Flooding can be unpredictable. The most important thing to remember is that if you receive an evacuation order, leave the area immediately. Stay clear of rushing water and never try to walk or drive through it. Just six inches of moving water can make you fall, and as little as two feet can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pick-up trucks.
No one expects to get into trouble while enjoying B.C.’s wilderness. Yet, a turn in the weather, error in judgment, unexpected injury or equipment failure can quickly change a fun outing into a stressful experience. Plan your adventure to avoid trouble. Get prepared with practical, easy-to-use tools from AdventureSmart.
As part of your trip planning, research emergency and non-emergency phone numbers for the places you'll be visiting.
If you need police assistance that is not an emergency, call the local ten-digit non-emergency phone number.
9-1-1 is the emergency services phone number for most B.C. communities. Call it only if someone's health or safety is in immediate danger and the operator will immediately connect you to the local ambulance service, police department or fire department. If you’re in an area without 9-1-1 coverage, call the emergency number listed in the local phone book.