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Province to increase emergency program funding to $80M

Spending will help communities across B.C. cope with flood, fire and earthquakes

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Last week, Victoria announced an $80-million investment in emergency programs that will help communities across B.C. better cope with flooding, fires and earthquakes.

"Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility that begins in every home, in every business, and across all levels of government," said Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness.

Up from $65 million last year, the funding includes $32 million to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for local government emergency preparedness, $20 million for flood protection projects and $3 million for seismic projects.

While the province was not set to go public with the levels of funding going to individual communities, Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy assured there would "definitely" be money coming to the corridor.

The former Pemberton mayor has seen firsthand the devastation that a natural disaster can bring. The Pemberton Valley has been home to several major floods over the years, including a massive deluge in 2003 that inundated parts of Pemberton and Mount Currie, and claimed the lives of five people.

"I think Pemberton strives to be prepared, but given the dynamic environment we live in, it's really challenging to be as prepared as we all need to be," he said.

Ryan Wainwright, emergency program manager for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), said funding from senior levels of government is crucial for regional districts' emergency planning.

"If we're going to undertake the kind of really expensive mitigation-prevention work that needs to be done, we need an external source of funding," he said. "Our region is large, our population is small, and our ability to tax for service is basically overwhelmed by the cost of a lot of these projects." The SLRD's annual emergency program budget sits at around $200,000.

With the risk of flooding in the region, Wainwright said a big priority for the SLRD is to update its mapping and planning data.

"Because the river systems are so dynamic in the mountains and our mapping so outdated, we've got a lot of stuff — emergency related and also planning related — that relies on having updated understanding of flood control levels," he explained.

Landslides have also impacted the SLRD in recent years, with a 2015 slide destroying two Birken homes and damaging four others

Last year, the Resort Municipality of Whistler updated its Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan to include an evacuation plan that provides clear direction to assist officials and residents in the event of an emergency. The report identified 32 potential hazards the municipality could face, including 16 that could trigger an evacuation. More information can be found at www.whistler.ca/services/emergency/emergency-program.

Sturdy also emphasized the importance of personal responsibility in the event of an emergency.

"These are things that you need to sit down and talk to your family about, your friends about, your businesses, and ensure that we have multiple layers of options to do the best we can in what may well be very difficult circumstances," he said.

The RMOW has encouraged residents to have emergency kits with enough supplies for at least three days for your home, office and vehicle.

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