Emergency Social Services (ESS) provides short-term assistance to people who are forced to leave their homes because of fire, floods, hazardous materials spills or other emergencies. This assistance includes food, lodging, clothing, emotional support and family reunification.
ESS is typically available for 72 hours from the start of the incident. This provides time for evacuees to start planning for their recovery by contacting their insurance agents, families and friends, or local non-profit agencies.
In B.C., local authorities (regional districts, municipalities) are responsible for planning and operating emergency responses, including ESS teams, within their jurisdictions. ESS teams provide services for individuals affected by a single house fire and emergencies affecting one to two families, or for large complex disasters or emergencies such as the 2003 wildfires.
Across B.C., volunteers who provide their time and skills to help their fellow community members staff ESS teams. The leader of the ESS team is the ESS director (ESSD). One of the major tasks of the ESSD is to recruit and train volunteers.
The Clearwater team operates under the co-leadership of directors Cheryl Thomas and Carol Robertson. The local program has seen a renewed vigor in recent months with several new people joining and most completing some levels of training.
There are currently about 25 people involved at various levels. Over the past 10 years, there have been approximately 65 different people involved.
Volunteers and staff of other community organizations also have important roles in providing these services. ESS works closely with the fire departments and also establishes links with other key local emergency responders such as the RCMP and Search and Rescue. The Clearwater team operates in the area from Blackpool to (currently) Blue River.
ESS teams identify facilities suitable for use as Reception Centers and Group Lodging facilities. The North Thompson Sportsplex and the TNRD Library are the main facilities while others such as schools, churches and community halls may serve in specific roles. Providing assistance requires establishing relationships with local businesses and service organizations to supply goods and services required during emergencies.