I always thought that 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 qualified responders.
What Disaster Response Transportation Is For
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.
Where are Disaster Response Routes in BC?
Currently disaster response routes have been established in the Lower Mainland and on southern Vancouver Island.
Activation of Disaster Response Routes
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.
Who Is Qualified to Use DRTs?
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 These are no longer valid.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.
Learn An Alternate Route
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.
Penalty for Improper Use
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 2 penalty points.
Threat is Not Immediate
Unless there is an immediate threat to you during the disaster, the Disaster Response Route web site claims that 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.
I've noticed a persistent rumour in the amateur radio community that sporting a ham plate on your vehicle will get you a pass for the DRT routes as well... obviously this is not, and probably never has been, true.