Useful Terms to Know

Part of being prepared for an emergency involves understanding what might be asked of you. Here are a few common terms you could hear in an emergency:

Emergency Support Services (ESS)

ESS is a community-based provincial emergency response program required to preserve the well-being of people affected by an emergency or disaster ranging from single house fire or calamities involving mass evacuations.

Evacuation Stages

  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice. If you leave before or during this alert, it is considered a voluntary evacuation.
  • Evacuation Order: You or your property is at risk. Leave the area immediately. You are encouraged to register all family members at the reception centre so emergency responders know that you are safe.
  • Evacuation Rescind: All is currently safe and you can return home. Stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.

Reception Centre

People who are forced to evacuate their homes in an emergency may be directed to a reception centre. A reception centre is a safe place where people can go to receive information about the emergency, assistance meeting their basic needs, help planning their recovery from the disaster, and other primary and specialized services.


In the event of a hazardous material release into the air, you may be asked to shelter-in-place to remain safe.

  • Go indoors immediately and stay there
  • Close all windows and doors
  • Turn off the furnace, air conditioners and exhaust systems
  • Listen to the radio or TV for more information

For additional information and tips to shelter-in-place, visit PreparedBC’s Shelter-in-Place webpage.