*This blog post was created during the Central Okanagan wildfire emergency in August 2023.

Emergency Preparation

Build a grab-and-go-bag!

Items to include:

  • Food & water
  • Phone charger and battery bank
  • Radio & flashlight (+ extra batteries)
  • First aid kid & personal medications
  • Personal toiletries (e.g., deodorant, toothbrush, extra pair of glasses)
  • Copy of your emergency plan & copies of important documents, such your ID, medical documents, and insurance papers
  • Seasonal clothing & an emergency blanket
  • Pen & notepad
  • Whistle

Finding Reliable Information


Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has up-to-date official information on evacuation alerts/orders, emergency shelter sites, support for evacuees, and more!

At cordemergency.ca/map you can view a map of the evacuation zones and type your address in the search bar (at the top of the map) to see if you are under evacuation order or alert.

  • Evacuation order (red): Leave the area immediately. Do not return home until the Evacuation Order has been rescinded.
  • Evacuation alert (orange): Be prepared to leave your home on short notice. Get your grab-and-go bag ready.

Evacuations and Emergency Response


If you have been evacuated, register for Emergency Support Services in person at an official Reception Centre or online at ess.gov.bc.ca. If you would like to register in preparation for a possible future evacuation, you can register online with your BC Services Card.

Bring a pen and notepad so you can write down important information, like instructions or addresses.

You can register online with or without your BC Services Card. Download the BC Services Card app.

  • Note: If you are using the BC Services Card app for the first time, you will need to verify your identity by submitting a video of yourself.
  • If you run into technical problems, you can register in-person at a Reception Centre.

When registering, you may be asked to provide information such as:

  • Your Personal Health Number
  • Contact information (phone number, email address)
  • Household member names, date of birth, and contact information
  • Dietary requirements
  • Medication
  • Pets
  • Support you require, including food, lodging, clothing, transportation, and incidentals (e.g. laundry supplies, pet food)

Support for People Living with Brain Injury

People living with disabilities face additional challenges in emergency situations, like wildfire evacuations. Brain injury is a disability with many hidden impacts.

If you have a brain injury…

Disasters, like wildfires, can be overwhelming. Stress may make some symptoms worse. Use strategies & tools that have helped you in the past. You may have to ask for assistance in circumstances you usually do not and that’s okay.

Check in with your support network – this could be a friend, family member, neighbour, or support worker.
Having a brain injury means you may need to consider preparedness actions above and beyond the “basics”. For example, your emergency kit may include additional items such as:

  • Mobility and communication aids (e.g., walker, hearing aids) + related items (e.g., batteries)
  • Medications + pill box
  • Your organization system (planner, calendar, etc.)
  • A document with contact info for friends/family, support workers, medical professionals, pharmacist
  • Other items that help you manage your symptoms (e.g., sunglasses for light sensitivity, earplugs for sleep)

Write down or ask for paper copies of important information. Ask others to repeat information if necessary and give you additional time to respond.

Focus on positive memories and the skills you’ve used to get through other hard times.

When you can, take time to rest. Your body and brain need time to recover when stressed. For example, choosing to sit instead of stand can help you conserve energy.

Practice how to quickly explain to people the best way to help you. You can also create your own brain injury ID card by writing down your name and a list of symptoms or difficulties that impact you.

If you are supporting evacuees…

You can’t tell someone has a brain injury just by looking at them and some people may not be comfortable disclosing the details of their injury. It is good practice to ask the individuals you are helping if they require any accommodations.

Some symptoms (e.g., slurred speech, balance problems) may be mistaken for other concerns (e.g., intoxication). It is important to be patient, non-judgmental, and to actively listen.

Examples of physical & sensory-related supports:

  • Do not touch the person, their service animal or equipment without their permission.
  • Make sure the person’s wheelchair (or other mobility aid) is transported with the person.
  • Avoid the term “over there” – describe positions such as, “to your right / left / straight ahead / behind you”.
  • If possible, have conversations 1:1 in quiet areas with controlled environmental light.
  • Provide spaces for rest during the day. Make seating available for people waiting in a line-up.

Examples of cognitive & mental health-related supports:

  • Speak slowly and allow additional time for the person to respond. Repeat instructions if needed and summarize important information.
  • Give extra time to fill out paperwork. Break down instructions one at a time. Ask the person if they have questions before moving on to another task.
  • Provide physical and/or electronic copies of information you share verbally. Remind the person to record information in their notepad/planner/phone.
  • Remind the person of breathing and grounding techniques (e.g., box breathing, 5-4-3-2-1) if they feel overwhelmed.
  • Direct the person to mental health resources (e.g., on-site support, crisis line). Actively listen and validate their feelings before jumping to find solutions. Often people just want to feel heard and know they are not alone.

The bottom line: Every brain injury is unique. If you’re not sure what a person wants or needs, ask politely and respectfully if they want your help and how you can best assist them.

Additional Resources

Prepared BC – Information & resources on emergency preparation & response.

BC Wildfire Service

Emergency Info BC – Updates on emergency situations in British Columbia.

Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team – Contact if you need assistance evacuating pets & livestock.

Drinking Water for Everyone – Information on water quality advisories. Type your address or region in the search bar at the top to learn about water quality advisories that may be affecting you.

IQ Air – Check the air quality in your region.

Drive BC – Updates on road conditions and closures in British Columbia.