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New portal expected to help B.C. evacuees find accommodations faster

System launching in June will provide emergency staff with live information on room availability
British Columbia’s government is seeking public input on how it helps disaster evacuees, in the wake of the province’s worst wildfire season on record. Wildfire evacuees Warren Pullen, left, and veteran Rob Pullen sit outside their trailer in the parking lot at an evacuation centre, in Kelowna, B.C., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia’s hotel association says a new central booking portal will help speed up the process of finding places to stay for emergency evacuees.

A statement says the system launching in June will provide provincial emergency support staff with live information on room availability, eliminating the need to call hotels to find out.

It says the portal can also track where evacuees have been placed, making accounting more efficient.

Last year’s wildfire season saw tens of thousands of people forced to evacuate from their homes, particularly in the Kelowna and Shuswap regions on the province.

The provincial government temporarily banned recreational travel to some regions last August to free up accommodation for evacuees and emergency responders.

The new booking portal will be used in Kamloops, Kelowna, and Prince George with the ability to add more places “as capacity warrants.”

Minister of Emergency Management Bowinn Ma says in the statement that co-ordinating emergency support during large evacuations can be challenging.

“This partnership with the BC Hotel Association introduces an innovative portal that provides real-time information on available lodging. This tool will play an important role in helping Emergency Support Services responders secure suitable accommodations for evacuees who need it, as soon as they need it.”

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