Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Considerations

Updated August 28, 2023

Emergencies can be defined as situations caused by the forces of nature, an accident, or an intentional act that constitutes a danger of major proportions to life or property. Whenever an emergency occurs, the coordination of efforts between your local government, other levels of government and residents is critical.

Emergency Services, through the Emergency Operations Centre, are activated during events to assess and assist the public; however, it is critical that individual households, residential building managers and others prepare their own premises to handle their needs for a minimum of 72 hours.

>> Public Alert Notification System

During an emergency or significant event, it is important to seek local information. Threats and subsequent actions can differ according to a geographic location even within the District of Sooke. Residents are encouraged to register to receive Sooke-specific emergency-related public alert notifications by phone, text, or email through Alertable – SIGN UP HERE >>.

Should this system (Alertable) not be operable Sooke has HAM (radio) operators who stand ready in case of an emergency. This team meets weekly at the fire hall to practice their skills and make sure that they are ready, if and when, they are needed.

Emergency Management Plan Overview

The District of Sooke subscribes to an ‘all-hazard’ approach, to large emergency or disaster responses. An emergency, as defined in the Emergency Program Act, is a present or imminent event or circumstance that is caused by accident, fire, explosion, technical failure or the forces of nature, and requires the prompt coordination of action or special regulation of persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of a person or to limit damage to property. Disasters are calamities caused by accident, fire, explosion or technical failure or by the forces of nature and have resulted in serious harm to the health, safety or welfare of people, or in widespread damage to property.

A disaster will create demands that exceed the normal capacity of any one organization, which is where emergency management mitigation, planning, response and recovery come into effect.

Each responding agency will have its own response plan that outlines its particular tasks within the framework of this plan and dovetails with the response activities of all. The unifying principles are set out in the British Columbia Emergency Response Management System (BCERMS), which is mandated for application in all ministries, municipalities and non-government agencies. Each responding agency will have its own response plan that outlines its particular tasks within the framework of this plan and dovetails with the response activities of all. The unifying principles are set out in the British Columbia Emergency Response Management System (BCERMS), which is mandated for application in all ministries, municipalities and non-government agencies.

It is important to note that there are many variables to each emergency event and where evacuations are needed, a situational evacuation plan is developed to respond to the circumstances of each event.

Evacuation levels and what they mean

  • Evacuation Alert: This means you need to be ready to leave on short notice. If you leave before or during this alert, it’s a voluntary evacuation.
  • Evacuation Order: You are at risk and must leave the area immediately. This is a mandatory evacuation  The evacuation order may be issued without a preceding alert, if there isn’t enough warning.
  • Evacuation Rescind: This means the situation is currently safe and you can return home. It’s important to stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.

How will I know to leave?

Alerts and orders will be distributed by local authorities via the Public Alerta Notification System and through tools like neighbourhood signage and door-to-door notices. Widespread evacuation alerts and evacuation orders will be broadcast through on radio, television and compatible wireless devices.

Emergency information will be posted online at sooke.ca.

Where do I go if an evacuation is called?

Evacuation alerts and orders will instruct you where to go. These areas are called assembly points and reception centres. You may also get information on which routes to avoid or use. Don’t forget to bring your 72-hour emergency kit.

When you arrive at the assembly point or reception centre be sure to register yourself and your family. You will then be directed to appropriate resources.

Can I leave before an evacuation is ordered?

In some situations, you may know of a possible threat ahead of time. An evacuation alert warns that you may need to leave on short notice. When an evacuation alert is issued, get ready to leave by gathering your family, emergency kit and necessities for travel. Be ready to go if an evacuation is ordered.

If you decide to leave before an evacuation order, let your emergency contacts know your plan. If an evacuation order is issued after you have left, or you were away from home during an emergency, check in with authorities as instructed.

Roles and Responsibilities

During the planning, mitigation, response and recovery phases of a disaster, numerous departments and agencies will participate. Several departments and agencies have been pre-identified as important participants in all phases. Some of the key roles and responsibilities are provided

District of Sooke Administration

  • Pre-planning for mitigation, response and recovery at a local level.
  • Development of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) operational, emergency response and business continuity (recovery) guidelines.
  • Pre-designation of the Emergency Operations Center Commander and staffing.
  • Activation of the Emergency Response and Business Continuity Plan.
  • Activation of the District of Sooke EOC.

Emergency Management BC

  • EMBC is a branch of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General, who will coordinate the response of the Provincial Government.
  • Provides executive coordination, strategic planning and multi-agency facilitation.
  • Coordinates requests for provincial, federal or international aid via the local Provincial Regional Emergency Operation Centres (PREOC). The Victoria PREOC is activated during emergencies, in support of local authorities (District of Sooke), provincial ministries and First Nations.
  • Supports leadership of local authorities (ie. District of Sooke and EOC Commander).
  • Supports municipal volunteer services and provides Work Safe BC (worker’s compensation) coverage for training and response work (Search and Rescue, Emergency Support Services and Amateur Radio Emergency Service).
  • The PREOC is the link for local authorities to the government emergency management system.

Police (RCMP)

  • First Responders provide situational awareness to the local authority and submit requests for support from the local authority EOC.
  • Lead agency for major automobile, aircraft and terrorism incidents.
  • Warning, alerting services and enforcement of emergency restrictions and regulations.
  • Provide direction and assistance in the evacuation of people.
  • Maintenance of law & order, traffic, route and crowd control.
  • Coordinate search and rescue.
  • Coordinate use of auxiliary and/or special police (COPS – Citizens on Patrol).
  • First Responders provide situational awareness to the local authority and submit requests for support from the local authority EOC.


  • Lead or coordinating agency for dangerous goods spills and urban/wild fires.
  • Provide direction and assistance in evacuation of people.
  • May provide medical aid in cooperation with BC ambulance.
  • Provide fire suppression and fire control in an emergency.
  • May provide rescue service in cooperation with other community/regional departments and agencies.
  • May provide assistance in determining availability of water supplies.
  • May implement Mutual Aid Agreement as necessary.

BC Ambulance

  • Lead or coordinating agency for providing mass casualty and health care services.
  • Responsible for triage, treatment and transport of casualties.
  • Coordinates emergency medical activities with local authority EOC designate
  • First Responders provide situational awareness to the local authority and submit requests for support from the local authority EOC.

Emergency Social Services

  • Provide short-term assistance to individuals who are forced to leave their homes due to an emergency.
  • Provide the basic needs of persons impacted by a disaster: registration & reunification, food, clothing, lodging and emotional support for up to 72 hours.
  • Provide support to all emergency response units and EOC personnel.
  • Coordinate the response of volunteer organizations directly involved in providing social services.
  • Provide services and support for neighborhood programs.

Engineering & Public Works Contractors (Mainroad, EPCOR, CRD Water)

  • Lead agency for dam breach and water main breaks.
  • Provision of potable water.
  • Maintenance and repair of sewage collection systems, major water courses and storm drainage systems, public roads, walks and public buildings.
  • Refuse collection and disposal.
  • Assist Ministry of Transportation with maintenance of traffic lights and provision and deployment of traffic signs, barricades, etc.
  • Liaison with utility companies (TELUS, Rogers, Shaw, Fortis BC, BC Hydro).
  • Assist with inspection of damaged buildings and structures.

Building Inspection – BC Housing

  • Provide input and assessment re: key facilities seismic stability, policy development and long range planning.
  • Development of a training program for rapid damage assessment to be used by employees and volunteers.
  • Development of strategies and process for compiling damage assessment information and recommendations during response.
  • Development of a “fast track” system for permit/inspection during recovery.

JDF Search and Rescue

  • Assist Police, Coroner, BC Ambulance, Parks and/or DND with ground and inland water search and rescue operations: swift water rescue, rope rescue, tracking and body recovery.
  • Assist Police and Fire Departments with evacuations.
  • Assist BC Ambulance with treatment of injured.
  • Conduct earthquake search and rescue.
  • Traffic control.
  • Activation via Emergency Management BC only.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (formerly Coast Guard Auxiliary)

  • Assist Police with ground ocean water search and rescue operations.
  • Assist Police and Fire Departments with evacuations.
  • Traffic control.
  • Activation via the Victoria Joint Rescue Coordination Centre only.

Ministry of Health & Public Health (Provincial Health Service Authority and Vancouver Island Health Authority)

  • Coordinate ambulance services and triage, treatment, transportation and care of casualties.
  • Provide continuity of care for patients evacuated from hospital or other health institutions and for medically dependant patient from other care facilities.
  • Assist when the number of patients received or to be received, exceeds the capabilities of the existing local staff.
  • Provide standard medical units consisting of emergency hospitals, advanced treatment centres, casualty collection units and blood donor packs.
  • Monitor potable water supplies & water quality.
  • Inspect and regulate food quality with the assistance of the Minister of Agriculture.
  • Epidemic, disease control and immunization program services.
  • Provide support services for physically challenged or medically disabled people affected by the emergency.
  • Provide critical incident stress debriefing and counselling.

Volunteers and Citizen Involvement

Responding to an emergency requires to support and assistance of all members of the community. We all have a role to play!

An Emergency Program is best served by the active participation of citizens of the community. The program accepts and encourages the involvement of volunteers with the District of Sooke Emergency Program and within all appropriate activities. Volunteer opportunities at the District of Sooke include Search & Rescue, Emergency Support Services, Neighborhood Watch and volunteer Fire Fighting. Contact Sooke Fire Rescue at 250.642.5422 if you would like to be involved.


After the Site Incident Command Post is established and the need for evacuation becomes apparent, an evacuation plan is formulated. Again, this is customized for each event.

Evacuation Stages

Stage 1: Evacuation ALERT
An evacuation Alert is defined by Emergency Management BC as a warning issued by local authorities about an imminent threat to life and property and people in the defined area should be ready to leave on short notice.

The Evacuation Alert may allow for the population at risk to begin an orderly preparation to voluntarily leave the affected area, within a specified time frame. However, the reality of the situation may require immediate action with very short notice. Note: In some instances an Evacuation Notice or Order is immediate and no evacuation Alert is given.

The Emergency Support Services teams should also be alerted to the possible need for activation of a reception centre to accept and assist the evacuated population.

Stage 2: Evacuation ORDER (or Notice)
When an Evacuation Order is issued by the local authority, people should leave the area immediately.

The population at risk is ordered to evacuate the area specified in a formal written order. This order does not allow for any discretionary decision on the part of the population at risk.

While the evacuation order is in effect, the area in question will have controlled access and a pass may be required to regain access to the area.

An Evacuation Order will only be issued by authorities in response to the imminent danger and potential of loss of life or injury to the population at risk in the affected area. These notices are issued in the interest of LIFE SAFETY. Members of the RCMP, Local Fire Departments, and the Local Authorities may be involved in expediting that action through door-to-door contact, electronic media, etc.

Evacuation orders take into account the timing of events to coordinate the evacuation. As such, neighbourhoods would be evacuated through designated routes, likely in a staggered approach, and before immediate danger may be present.

Evacuation routes may include those towards Langford, Metchosin or Jordan River – or a combination, depending on the event. If needed, air and water transport are also brought in to assist with evacuations.

Stage 3: Evacuation Rescind (or All Clear)
When the Evacuation Rescind is announced, people under an evacuation order may return. The population at risk is allowed to return to the area previously evacuated, having been advised that the danger has passed.

There is the possibility that the danger may re-manifest itself and the evacuation notification might need to be re-issued. An Evacuation Order or Alert may be reinstated by the local authority if the threat returns.

Evacuation Levels

Level One: A Level One evacuation will be accomplished by the on-scene emergency services, (ie. small residential fires, chemical spills, etc.). Persons will normally make their own arrangement and stay with friends, relatives or neighbours. Emergency services on the scene shall keep record of names, addresses and telephone numbers of where these peoples may be located.

Level Two: Involves greater numbers of people displaced due to a large fire, flood, hazmat spill etc., or persons evacuated who have no place to stay and require assistance. This will require involvement of other agencies, (ie Emergency Support Services), for assistance, registration and placement. Coordination of services by the Emergency Program Coordinator and/or an Emergency Operations Centre is required.

Level Three: A disaster causing large-scale evacuation, (ie large scale flooding), requiring overall coordination of direction will be provided through the establishment of the EOC. Operational control will be established through the on scene incident command post, supported by the EOC.

Evacuation Centres

Several evacuation and Emergency Support Services Reception Centres have been predetermined. The particular centre to be activated will be determined by the Emergency Operations Coordinator and Emergency Social Services Director based on:
a) Proximity to a localized emergency;
b) Travel routes from a localized emergency;
c) Safety of the area; and
d) Number of people evacuated.

In the event that the disaster is region-wide and of a severe nature that transportation and other facilities are disrupted, all local Emergency Support Services Reception Centres will be activated to provide information and assistance. Emergency Support Services and Amateur Radio personnel will be located at these facilities to provide communication and other services for the area.

The possible District of Sooke reception centres include the following:

  • District of Sooke Community Hall
  • Edward Milne High School
  • Metchosin Community Hall

Evacuee Transportation

After receiving an evacuation alert (warning), some residents may not have the means available to transport themselves and their families to an evacuation centre. When the need arises, buses are used to assist with evacuation efforts.

Debris and other obstructions may impede the movement of vehicles in the evacuated area. Note that such conditions may require that evacuees board buses on the periphery of the area.

Evacuation Animal Control

The Ministry of Environment has the primary responsibility for the control and welfare of large animals during an evacuation. The Emergency Support Services Team in conjunction with the SPCA will also assist through provision of portable corrals, horse trailers and volunteers

Hazards that May Require Strategic Evacuation

Following a review of the Sooke Community Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (HRVA), the District determined that the hazards most likely to require a strategic evacuation include the following, in alphabetical order:

  • Dam Breach – The CRD-controlled structures at the Sooke Reservoir face the risk of breach under some extreme circumstances. The potential impact zone is well defined along the Sooke River drainage, as described in the CRD emergency plan.
  • Flooding – Sooke River water flows are controlled by CRD at the reservoir. Heavy rainfall occasionally leads to isolated minor flooding in the Sooke River basin, from tide level north to about De Mamiel Creek. The CRD is responsible for issuing warnings about Sooke River flood conditions.
  • Hazardous Material Release – Risk areas for the release of hazardous materials include Seaparc Leisure Complex, where ammonia is stored in tanks for the ice arena. Highway 14 is used for the transportation of dangerous goods to western communities. Toxic smoke from large structural fires present similar risks.
  • Police Actions – Some security and public safety responses by RCMP may require a large-area evacuation over a long period. Some bomb threats or active shooter incidents fall into this category.
  • Storm Surge – Coastal areas are subject to storm surge conditions that, combined with high tides, could lead to localized shoreline flooding, and impacts to docks and marinas.
  • Tsunami – Properties within 4 metres elevation above the normal highest tide along the marine shoreline are subject to tsunami
  • This risk area includes several residences, as well as docks and marinas.
  • Wildfire – Several neighbourhoods are classed as interface or intermix zones, subject to wildfire threats, including Erinan, north of Sunriver Estate, Milnes Landing and north along Sooke River Rd., Saseenos, and the eastern border near Gillespie Rd, Connie Rd., and Glinz Lake Rd.

Note: evacuation guidelines and preparation provide the flexibility needed to adapt to these and other situations.

Top 10 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Evacuation

Presented by BC Economic Development Association

If you are on evacuation alert or think you will be put on evacuation alert, there are some important steps you will want to consider. If you have an evacuation plan, review the plan and start the implementation process. If you do not have an evacuation plan, here are 10 things to consider:

  1. Protect your information – back up electronic files using a USB stick, emailing them to yourself, backing up to an online ‘cloud’ and grabbing your laptop, external hard drive, or computer tower if needed.
  2. Pack insurance and registration information for all commercial vehicles in your evacuation kit.
  3. Preparing for an Insurance Claim – take pictures and/or a video of your business pointing out key equipment. Don’t forget to take a copy of your insurance documents with you.
  4. Remove any uncertainty as to what staff should do in an emergency. Assign tasks to help staff respond as quickly as possible. Make sure you have their contact information and out of area contacts.
  5. Turn off utilities – electrical and water, and remove any fire hazards that may be near the building. If you are evacuated, leave your gas service on. If fire or emergency officials request FortisBC to do so, we will turn off the utility service as a precautionary measure, or if there is an immediate threat to FortisBC infrastructure.
  6. Empty cash from your cash register and seal in an envelope. Sign the envelope, the cash amount and the date across the seam. If you go to use any of this cash in your evacuation efforts, be sure to track how much of it you spend and if it is a business-related expense.
  7. Make sure you have a list of links to emergency information. A list is provided at the end of this document.
  8. Create a list of emergency phone numbers and key contacts, be sure you have access to this list if you are evacuated.
  9. If there is an environmental threat 50 km or further from your place of business, you may still be eligible to register for business interruption insurance.
  10. Contact suppliers about a potential delivery disruption (if applicable) and/or contact customers about a potential disruption in services (if applicable).

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