Quality Address Data Plays an Essential Role in Coordinated Disaster Response

In the last few years, the province of British Columbia has experienced an unprecedented number of wildfires and floods resulting in thousands of British Columbians being forced from their homes. While some of these events affect only uninhabited regions, many others threaten communities, property, pets, livestock, and human lives.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is in an area that routinely experiences flood and fire emergencies. With approximately 6,500 square kilometres and an estimated permanent population of 35,000 residents (over 100,000 during the summer tourist and cottage season), the need for a coordinated response team was essential.

In 1999 the Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) was formed with the amalgamation of three local authorities: CSRD’s Electoral Areas C, D, E and F, the City of Salmon Arm and the District of Sicamous. The SEP is responsible for the direction and control of coordinated response to and recovery from a significant emergency event or disaster. The SEP team provides emergency planning, mitigation, preparedness and recovery for the geographical area which generally encompasses the Shuswap region. SEP is a well established, active program of well over 85 volunteers and 45 local authority staff who are all trained in emergency management.

The GIS team at the CSRD, lead by David Major, is involved in supporting the planning and operations functions of the SEP and the local Emergency Operation Centre (EOC). Whether fire or flood, the GIS team provides evacuation order maps, lists of owners in affected areas, overview maps for planning and operations and helps to identify locations of vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure.

Access to timely and accurate information is critical. The GIS team at CSRD manages the address data for the electoral areas. Salmon Arm and Sicamous manage their own address data. As members of the ICI Society, the CSRD, Salmon Arm and Sicamous all contribute to and make use of AddressBC .

AddressBC is a member-driven initiative of the ICI Society to build and maintain an authoritative, accurate and accessible point-based civic address registry for British Columbia. Emergency planners, regional service providers, utilities and other users can access data from AddressBC in a useable, consistent form.

“With AddressBC, we know what we are getting and are working from a common platform,” states David Major, Coordinator of IT/GIS Services for the CSRD. “Because AddressBC is the authoritative source of address data and is available in a common format, we have confidence in the reliability of the data. Regular updates to this information have also improved our ability to respond quickly no matter where the emergency.”

When natural disasters occur, local governments still struggle with managing jurisdictional boundaries versus the boundaries of the event. Use of AddressBC helps to quickly get accurate information into the hands of the public and decision-makers even when the event crosses boundaries.

The CSRD has internal and public web applications that allow the public to search addresses to see if they are in an evacuation area. Internal emergency management staff has the same access. With data tied into BC Assessment data, the process of determining ownership is faster.

Keeping AddressBC current and accurate is vital to providing regional emergency programs, ECOMM 911, and its partner agencies, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) with the information they need to keep British Columbians safe.

The ICI Society and DataBC provide ICI Society members/address providers with a quality assurance report that shows where there may be addressing errors in AddressBC. To make the dataset the best it can be requires local authorities to review the quality assurance reports and correct issues. Members can find the AddressBC QA reports in our Data Catalog. Members can also contact the Society to subscribe to AddressBC QA Reports.

Funding is also available to Local Government and First Nations members of the ICI Society. If your group is committed to review, annotate and/or resolve anomalies based on feedback reporting from ICI Society GeoShare Q/A and the DataBC’s Provincial Physical Address Geocoder Q/A, click here to access our application for the CivicSpatial Grant.

The ICI Society provides opportunities to learn about AddressBC at user events that are held in multiple locations province-wide. These are great opportunities to sharpen your skills as well as collaborate and network with peers from other jurisdictions and government agencies like GeoBC, DataBC, BC Assessment and others. Watch our Events page in the Fall to find an event in your area. Share your experiences, build your skills and relationships.