B.C. to introduce new disaster management laws to address preparedness, mitigation

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's emergency management minister says the province will soon introduce new laws to govern responses to increasingly frequent natural disasters such as wildfires and flooding.

Bowinn Ma told a gathering of local politicians in Vancouver that the new laws will address the four phases of emergency management, from preparedness and mitigation to response and recovery.

Ma told the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention that the current Emergency Program Act focusing on disaster response has not been updated since 1993 and hasn't kept up with the increasing frequency of extreme weather brought on by climate change.

Also at the convention, health and weather officials warned B.C. communities that the higher frequency and size of wildfires in recent years will likely continue or get even worse, with the resulting smoke carrying long-term impacts on people's health.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province has already seen record demand in hospital emergency wards this summer, and the wildfire smoke has created air quality challenges that may lead to even higher demand in the future.

Dix says the province has added about 5,400 new nurses, but the number isn't "close to enough" to address the support that will be needed to handle possible public health issues arising from wildfire smoke and other patient needs.

Experts speaking at the convention says studies have shown a wide range of possible health issues stemming from smoke exposure, such as increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, as well as possible reduction in cognitive functions and long-term harm for prenatal exposure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.

The Canadian Press