British Columbia

Online registration for evacuees aims to reduce costs, wait times for emergency support

Emergency Management B.C. is testing a digital registration system that could reduce costs and save time for evacuees of wildfires and other emergencies.

Emergency Management B.C. testing digital system in areas of Interior hit by wildfires

Four B.C. communities are piloting Emergency Management B.C.'s new digital registration system for support services. (City of Prince George)

Emergency Management B.C. is testing a digital registration system for emergency support services that could reduce costs and save time for evacuees of wildfires and floods.

Traditionally, people displaced due to disasters have registered for services like food and accommodation at emergency reception centres using a paper-based system.

In an effort to make the process more efficient, Emergency Management B.C. has developed an online system it's testing with local governments in Prince George, Kamloops, the Regional District of Central Okanagan and the T'Kemloops First Nation.

The new system will permit evacuees to complete an online registration in a few minutes, either in person at a reception centre or on their own through a digital device. 

Noticeable improvements 

Last week, Prince George tested the system using more than 250 staff and volunteers .

The city says it welcomed 14,000 wildfire evacuees over the past two summers, each of whom may have had to wait in line for hours to sign up for support services.

"When you're dealing with thousands of evacuees the paper based system is quickly limited," said Adam Davey, manager of emergency programs for Prince George, located in B.C.'s central Interior. 

More than 200 staff, volunteers and actors tested Emergency Management B.C.'s new electronic registration system in Prince George last week. (City of Prince George)

Last year, it took two staffers an average of 80 minutes to register one file, Davey said, but the digital registration took one staffer only 15 to 20 minutes. 

"I think we're very pleased with the initial findings," said Davey. "Very easy to use, very easy to teach."

"I think the main benefit looking down the road is that evacuees will have the ability to register online, so on their own. So they'll be able to self-register from their location, or perhaps a smartphone or a tablet prior to even coming to the reception centre," said Davey.

The city says even greater time savings will be realized when registrations are renewed because evacuees' personal information will be saved and easily accessed. 

The four communities will pass along their findings before officials decide whether to roll it out province-wide. 

With files from Daybreak North

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Cory Correia

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