I always thought the disaster route signs posted beside some of our highways indicated the route that people would take if they had to evacuate during a disaster or major emergency. I was mistaken in my belief, as these signs actually indicate routes that may only be used by emergency services consisting of police, fire, ambulance and other responders that have been issued with placards to identify their vehicles.
The idea is to provide efficient response for resources to get to where they are needed the most. Disaster routes will be the first to be cleared in the event of an emergency. Police will limit their use to emergency responders only for the duration of the incident. As soon as possible, these routes will be re-opened for use by the general public.
Identified for overhaul in 2013, the original highway priority route concept has evolved to encompass all aspects of transportation and a renaming of the system to Disaster Response Transportation (DRT). The British Columbia Disaster Response Transportation Primer helps explain DRT strategy and terminology.
Currently disaster response routes have been established in the Lower Mainland and on southern Vancouver Island.
The entire system will not be automatically activated in the event of a disaster unless it is necessary. It is possible that only one route, or part of a route, will be needed and the rest will remain available for the use of the general public. Closure is meant to be flexible according to need and may change during an incident.
Prior to 2013, authorization stickers were issued to emergency responders. These are no longer valid. Today, at minimum authorized emergency personnel will be required to show government issued photo ID and some form of employer issued ID at minimum.
If you use a disaster response route in your daily travel, learn an alternate route that you can use if an emergency is declared. Should an emergency occur, listen to the local media services for information on which routes have been activated and use the alternate until advised otherwise. You will be helping others in time of need by taking this minor inconvenience on yourself.
Drivers who use a DRT route during a disaster when they have been activated are guilty of disobeying a traffic control device under the Motor Vehicle Act. The penalty is $121 and two penalty points.
Unless there is an immediate threat to you during the disaster, the Disaster Response Route web site says you are better off to spend the first 72 hours sheltered in your home. Please visit the Provincial Emergency Program web site for more information on how to prepare to do this.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.