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Emergency Support Services
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Emergency Support Services: Short-term supports

Emergency Support Services (ESS) is a core provincial program designed to support people after a disaster. ESS provides short term financial support for basic needs like food and lodging until evacuees can return home or are no longer in need.

ESS was accessed by tens of thousands of British Columbians because of the extreme weather events that occurred in 2021. Thousands of evacuees needed financial supports for weeks, some for months, while they were displaced. Volunteers worked alongside local governments, First Nations and the province to help deliver these supports the best they could.

“People should never feel as though they are a burden during an ordeal. . . This has been the most difficult and stressful time of my life by far. . . To be made to feel as though I was asking too much . . . was wrong and then to top it all off we were made to feel as though we were alone in the process.”


The complexity of large scale and compounding disasters is exceeding the current design and capacity of the ESS program. The province must strengthen support for community-led ESS teams including through ensuring timely and effective surge support, integrating professional mental health care and creating a reliable communication hub for evacuees.

All too often, people who were disproportionately impacted by extreme weather faced unfair barriers in accessing the emergency supports they needed – including Indigenous people, people with disabilities, lower-income households, older people and children, and people with physical and mental health needs. The government must make local reception centres accessible to all, integrate cultural safety into the ESS program and provide flexible assistance that allows people to choose what they need.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and people are being displaced for longer periods of time as a result. The impacts of displacement are made worse by the housing affordability crisis. The government must work together with communities to develop a comprehensive strategy to address long-term displacement due to extreme weather.


Length of time and percentage of evacuees who received ESS

*Data from Evacuee Registration and Assistance tool provided by Emergency Management BC.