TRU study recommends revamped communications for wildfire service

Changes needed at BCWS?

A Thompson Rivers University study of the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons has resulted in a number of suggestions to improve BC Wildfire Service communications.

TRU professor Michael Mehta led the investigation that started in 2019 and finished in June.

According to TRU, the study did not take into account the devastating 2021 fire season.

The 89-page document, titled "A life cycle based model to risk and crisis communication during wildfire events in British Columbia," was jointly funded by the BCWS, Canada Wildfire and TRU.

The study looks at existing risk communications and crisis communications models being used by wildfire organizations and offers six recommendations.

The university said it is working closely with BCWS to address and find solutions for challenges in emergency situations like wildfires.

“Over the last three years, we’ve made significant investments in research and innovation,” said Ian Meier, executive director of BCWS.

“We are committed to fostering a learning culture within our organization and it is exciting to begin to see results and recommendations for the future.”

The report highlights possible improvements in communications before, during and after wildfire events. It also looks at the impact of emergency events across agency jurisdictions.

In addition to the BCWS, researchers also consulted with Emergency Management BC, with First Nations’ Emergency Services Society, Simpcw First Nation, the City of Kamloops and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Recommendations outlined include organizations making the distinction between risk and crisis communications, and putting a focus the safety and mental health of affected individuals and communities.

“We hope that this report provides useful information to emergency management organizations across B.C. and elsewhere to reduce the risk from wildfires and other disasters,” Mehta said.

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