Emergency Social Services
Emergency Social Services
Emergency Social Services (ESS) is a volunteer-based, community emergency response program that provides for the short-term needs of evacuees and response workers in the event of a disaster or emergency. Generally, these short-term (up to 72 hours) services are required to preserve the emotional and physical well-being of evacuees and are typically provided in a Reception Centre.
Role of ESS in a Disaster
British Columbia’s ESS teams play an important role in community and regional disaster and emergency response by:
- helping people remain independent and self-sufficient;
- helping people meet their basic survival needs during a disaster;
- reuniting family members separated by a disaster;
- providing people with accurate and up-to-date information about the situation at hand;
- helping people re-establish themselves as quickly as possible after a disaster; and
- helping communities and regions through the recovery process.
ESS teams in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) work with local residents, agencies and businesses to prepare for disasters (both small- and large-scale) and provide essential needs of people affected by those disasters. Volunteers are the heart of the ACRD Emergency Program success. By volunteering, ESS teams have the opportunity to give back to the community during a disaster response by assisting evacuees.
ESS Reception Centres
When people are forced to evacuate their homes temporarily or their homes are destroyed, they may require assistance with essential services to maintain life and health. A Reception Centre is opened and operated by trained ESS volunteers in order to provide a safe place where evacuees from an affected area can gather to register, get information and receive assistance.
Prior to any Reception Centre opening to the public, ESS volunteers will undertake an evaluation of the building to ensure it can be safely occupied and used as intended. If the building cannot be used, an alternate location will be determined and this information will be posted at the Reception Centre and through the media.
Currently, the following are designated Reception Centres in the ACRD:
- Alberni Valley: Alberni Valley Multiplex
- Bamfield: Bamfield Community School
- District of Tofino: Community Hall
- District of Ucluelet: Ucluelet Secondary School
During a disaster, tune your battery-operated radio to the local radio station to find out when and where Reception Centres have been activated. To find out what other supplies you should have on hand for disaster and emergencies, visit the Developing a Family Disaster Plan section of this website.
Services Provided by ESS
ESS provides temporary primary services such as:
- emergency food services;
- emergency clothing services;
- emergency lodging services; and
- registration and inquiry.
ESS may also provide specialized services such as:
- disaster child care;
- pet care;
- transportation services;
- health services (first aid, emotion and special needs support);
- volunteer services;
- communications; and
- public information.
When is ESS Provided?
The ESS Plan is an important part of the overall community and regional Emergency Plans. During a disaster response, part of or the entire ESS Plan can be activated under the direction of the community or Regional Emergency Coordinator or the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Director. Whether or not a Reception Centre will be opened is dependent upon many factors including the:
- size of the emergency;
- number of evacuees;
- availability of facilities; and
- availability of training ESS volunteers.
“Heart of Disaster Response” Volunteers
Most communities in British Columbia have an ESS team that works with community and regional businesses willing to provide their resources in times of disaster. Planning for disaster and emergency response requires time, energy, creativity and depends on the commitment and dedication of the ESS volunteers.
ACRD ESS volunteers are always needed and welcomed. Disaster work offers a unique opportunity to help others when help is needed most. Working in this field challenges volunteers to stretch their own limits and potential. The ESS teams in the ACRD are always looking for volunteers who:
- have a concern for people affected by disaster and a desire to help;
- have good communication skills;
- have a positive “team” attitude;
- are willing to learn;
- are able to respond (sometimes on short notice);
- are flexible and work well as part of a team;
- are in good health; and
- have a sense of adventure.
No specific skills are required to become an ESS volunteer. However, skills such as volunteer management, interviewing, supervisory and second languages are great assets.
Rewards of Volunteering with ESS
Teamwork: You are part of a team that provides shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on when disaster forces people from their home.
Training: Offered through the Justice Institute of British Columbia and partner agencies, training includes:
- Introduction to ESS – self-study guide (3 hours)
- Reception Centre (1 day);
- Registration and Referrals for Food, Clothing and Lodging (1 day)
- Documentation Unit (1/2 day);
- Resource Acquisition (1 day);
- Group Lodging (1 day)
- Managing Walk-In Volunteers (1 day);
- ESS Leadership (2 days);
- ESS Director (5 days);
- Meet and Greet and Personal Services (Salvation Army);
- Disaster Child Care (Canadian Disaster Child Care Society);
- Inquiry, Search and Reply (Canadian Red Cross Society); and
- Supervision in a Disaster (Canadian Red Cross Society).
Protection: All ESS volunteers receive Workers Compensation Board and liability insurance coverage while on assignment.