UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Review of the organizational structure for the planning and delivery of Emergency Social Services in British Columbia : the Parksville flooding case study Waterlow, Rodney J.


In major emergencies or disaster situations it can be anticipated that the normal emergency services will be severely strained, or exceeded, and assistance which is routinely provided by municipal or provincial agencies may not be available. In such abnormal circumstances, there is a need for an expandable emergency response capability, designed to supplement the established agencies. This may involve a number of different agencies, both governmental and private, in a coordinated effort to respond to the increased demands of the situation. This thesis focuses on the component of emergency response known in Canada as 'Emergency Social Services' (ESS) which is based primarily on the involvement of community-based agencies and individual volunteers. ESS is frequently referred to as the 'volunteer component', or the informal sector, as distinct from the formal, day-to-day, emergency response agencies: the police, fire, ambulance, and social services. However, as discussed in Chapter 2, the term 'Emergency Social Services' is not part of the accepted lexicon of the professional literature, and the distinction between ESS and other emergency response agencies, is not the norm in other parts of North America. Chapter 3 reviews the volunteerism literature and concludes that volunteer-based organizations require professional management to be successful, and that without such formal management and support the ESS model is most likely to fall short of its objectives, or may fail completely. In Chapter 4 the evolution of the governing legislation is examined to determine the origins of the isolation of Emergency Social Services from the mainstream of emergency planning, as distinct from a more integrated approach. Chapter 5 describes the ESS model, as presently espoused by the Ministry of Social Services, and analyzes the role of the ESS Director, arguing that this model relies heavily on the personal qualities of the individual ESS Director. Chapter 6 is a case study based on the flooding at Parksville on Vancouver Island. This particular event was selected because it was known to be a case where things had gone wrong and, therefore, merited further investigation. The case study demonstrates that, although Parksville was better prepared than many other municipalities in British Columbia, there were jurisdictional, administrative and perceptual problems which exacerbated the situation. Most particularly, the role of the ESS component, which was well represented by a local service organization, was minimal, and its potential contribution to the multiple needs of the evacuees (e.g., counselling and other personal services) was discounted by the local authorities. Chapter 7 examines some of the major issues identified in the thesis and the case study to determine what lessons can be learned from the event, including the following: perceptual differences between the formal and informal sectors; the need to amend the obsolete legislation; problems related to the respective roles of the Ministry and ESS; the need for professional management for ESS; the ambivalent relationship between the Ministry and the Provincial Emergency Program; and the need for, and the trend towards, a more integrated, holistic, approach to emergency planning. Chapter 8 reviews the thesis, lists the major conclusions, and makes recommendations for changes including: amending the emergency legislation to require municipalities to plan for emergencies which occur within their geographic jurisdiction; transferring formal responsibility for Emergency Social Services from the Ministry of Social Services to the municipalities; and providing professional management and support for Emergency Social Services as an integral part of the emergency preparedness capability of municipalities throughout British Columbia.

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