British Columbia is marshalling emergency management resources to assist neighbouring Albertans who have fled the devastating wildfires that have displaced 88,000 from their homes.
The B.C. Ministry of Health and Health Emergency Management BC (HEMBC) have been in contact with Alberta Health Services and currently are preparing to provide assistance in areas identified by Alberta officials. HEMBC is putting a call out to identify volunteers with the Province’s Disaster Psychosocial Program to deploy.
The volunteers include counsellors, social workers and psychologists who are trained to provide counselling and psychological support to both members of the public and responders affected by an emergency or disaster. These services can help to improve the ability of affected individuals and communities to cope with a disaster and reduce the long-term psychosocial effects.
B.C.’s Mobile Medical Unit – a state-of-the-art mobile medical facility – is being put on standby to respond as necessary. The Mobile Medical Unit is a hospital on wheels that can respond to emergency or disaster needs throughout the province and in other jurisdictions.
British Columbia has provided assistance to neighbouring Alberta in previous times of crisis. In 2013, B.C. sent environmental health officers to conduct public-health inspections in areas that had been flooded to support the safe re-entry of those who had been evacuated. In addition, members of the Disaster Psychosocial Program were sent to provide psychological first aid, which aims to reduce stress symptoms and assist in a healthy recovery following a traumatic event, natural disaster or public health emergency, as well as counselling on managing stress.
BC Wildfire Service will assume full responsibility for fire suppression efforts on the Siphon Creek wildfire, which jumped the British Columbia-Alberta border yesterday. This will allow Alberta’s firefighting resources to be focused on Fort McMurray. The BC Wildfire Service has also met specific equipment requests, made through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, for 100 Mark 3 pumps and 4,000 lengths of 3.8-centimetre (1.5-inch) hose.
Emergency Management BC (EMBC), the lead agency in B.C. for co-ordinating and responding to emergencies, has reached out to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency to offer help, including sharing incident management staff that organize and lead in emergency operation centres. EMBC is ready to provide emergency evacuation specialists and a mobile support team of experts in working with emergency social services teams on the ground.
British Columbia has mutual aid agreements with Alberta, as well as other provinces and states, for disasters like this in order to help mobilize and share emergency resources when and where needs are identified.