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Last December, former MLA George Abbott and hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman were appointed to undertake a thorough review of the 2017 flood and wildfire season. Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia outlines the findings of the review, and includes 108 recommendations to improve disaster response.

The review process involved a number of public engagement sessions focussed on planning and preparedness, prevention and mitigation, response, and recovery. Feedback was obtained through one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders (including local governments), community events, online engagement, and written submissions. In April, information was analyzed and used to form the final report, including recommendations.

Among the recommendations are a number of options for the Province to enhance partnerships with local governments. These include: support towards local emergency plans; better clarification around roles and responsibilities during an emergency; and establishing workshops and forums to help support information sharing, understanding, and identification of policy gaps. There is also an emphasis on a more streamlined and efficient response and recovery process.

The recommendations include 14 ‘strategic shift’ recommendations. These recommendations suggest actions that would significantly amend current policy. Among the ‘strategic shifts’ are: proposals to develop strategic partnerships with community members (e.g. ranchers, forestry contractors, landowners) to provide additional response capacity during emergencies; building a robust emergency communications website that includes all necessary information from government as well as emergency updates; and increasing the use of prescribed burning as a safety and prevention tool.

The Honourable Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, has noted that the provincial government is already in the process of implementing 19 of the recommendations.

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