Victoria told to improve emergency communication

Pandemic information lacking, UBCM resolution says

Local governments need more timely emergency updates involving things such as the pandemic, wildfires or floods, Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference delegates agreed Sept. 15 | Photo: BC Wildfire Management Branch

Victoria should give local governments more timely emergency updates involving things such as the pandemic, wildfires or floods, Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference delegates agreed Sept. 15.

A resolution said local governments are the first to respond to such crises and need timely information that can be shared with their residents, both for safety purposes and to reduce anxiety of their residents.

But, the resolution said, in the pandemic’s case, communication from local health authorities and the provincial government to local governments, although improving, has only reached the minimum acceptable standard of twice weekly updates.

The solution, endorsed by 95.2% as part of a block of resolutions, said Victoria should work to find ways and means to have accurate and timelier community-based information that can be shared with local governments and their residents during declared local and provincial states of emergency.

Delegates learned the 2018 BC Flood and Wildfire Review by Chief Maureen Chapman and former cabinet minister George Abbott acknowledged "concerns about the timeliness and accuracy of public communications around wildfire and other disasters." 

Specifically, the resolution said, during the 2017 wildfire season, residents and communities had difficulty obtaining reliable real-time information. The report recommended provincial strategies for more effective information sharing, including a request that the province develop an emergency communications hub to provide reliable, responsive and real-time information.

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