This Week in History: the origins of B.C.’s Emergency Preparedness Program

Frederike Verspoor is an archivist with the Royal BC Museum — with her are two photo albums out of the archives.

They detail the early days of civil defense in British Columbia.

"The focus of civil defense is civilian volunteers," of which there are dozens pictured within the albums.

It was after the bombing of Pearl Harbour during World War Two that residents of Canada's West Coast became interested in becoming civilian volunteers.

"And getting the training in rescue work, first aid, and also dealing with gas attacks, which was an early focus of civil defense" says Verspoor.

"It was organized at the local level, particularly along the west coast where the threat was seen as the greatest."

The program ended with the end of the Second World War.

"The funding was stopped, and then it was shut down" says Verspoor. "It was felt that it was not needed anymore."

Then came the threat of nuclear war in the early 1950's,  civil defense was reactivated soon after.

"And an Office of Civil Defense Coordinator was created in B.C.." she said. "And then, over time, and into the 60's, it was looking more at peacetime emergency preparedness."

In the 1970's the Office of the Civil Defense Coordinator became the Provincial Emergency Program, now known as Emergency Preparedness BC.

They deal, Verspoor explains,  "More with natural disasters, than any external human created threat."

"But it does have, if you look at the elements of the training, and the awareness, and the literature, similarities with what was set up during the Second World War."