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Safety and Emergency Tips

Trip planning means being prepared before and during a vacation. This includes knowing what to do or who to contact in case of an emergency while in British Columbia.

Emergency and 911

In emergency situations that require immediate action dial 911 to contact an emergency responder for police, ambulance and/or fire services. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident worse than a ‘fender bender’ contact police on 911, followed by your insurance company. In case of a death or extreme medical emergency and you are visiting from outside of the country contact your nearest consulate or embassy in Canada.

Medical Services

Visitors are advised to obtain travel health insurance before departing for Canada or arriving from another province as many health insurance plans only provide partial coverage for services rendered outside the borders of the policy holder’s country or province of residence. If you are coming to BC from another Canadian province be sure to check your provincial health insurance plan to see what (and what’s not) covered elsewhere in the country.

Visitors taking prescription medication(s) are advised to bring a copy of their scripts in case the medication(s) must be renewed by a doctor while in BC.

Road Conditions

Whether it be sleet, snow, slush or heavy rain, you are bound to encounter some inclement conditions while driving in British Columbia. DriveBC has information on road conditions 24 hours a day. The website includes links to other information such as border delays and seasonal driving tips.

Handheld Devices and Driving

It is against the law in British Columbia to drive while using a handheld electronic device. Drivers may use hands-free cell phones that are voice activated or activated by one-touch technology provided they are securely attached to the vehicle or driver’s body, such as an earpiece. For more information see the BC government’s webpage: Use of electronic devices while driving.

Impaired Driving

It is a criminal offence to operate or be in the care or control of a vehicle, whether in motion or not, with a blood alcohol content of more than .08%. Provincial police can issue an immediate roadside prohibition to an impaired driver with a blood-alcohol content of .05% or higher. Drivers with blood alcohol content between 0.5% and 0.8% may also face fines and license suspensions, and have their vehicles impounded. Breath samples may be requested while being questioned and the refusal of a breathalyzer test could result in criminal charges.

For more information read the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) webpages on alcohol impaired driving and drug impaired driving and cannabis legalization and what the new laws mean for drivers.

Road Safety

British Columbia law requires that all drivers and passengers use seatbelts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Strict child car/booster seat regulations are in place for children up to the age of 12, and they must be seated in the rear seats in an age/weight appropriate restraint system. Visit the ICBC website for road safety information on child car seats, seatbelts and vehicular travel with a pet.

The provincial government webpage on recreational vehicles and towing trailers has information on provincial rest areas and resources for safe towing.

Propane

RV propane valves must be closed and cylinders must be upright and safely secured while on any of BC Ferries fleet. The following amounts of propane are permitted:

RVs

  • 2 x 25 kg cylinders (50 litre water capacity for each) connected to a regulator and secured in or on the vehicle
  • 1 x 15 kg (30 litre water capacity) for a barbecue

Passenger vehicles

  • 1 x 15 kg (30 litre water capacity)

The BC government has a webpage for regulations on travelling with hazardous materials on inland ferries. For visitors thinking of purchasing an RV while in British Columbia, note that all RVs for sale must display a valid decal indicating that the propane gas system has passed inspection by Technical Safety BC for safe operation.

Bicycle and Motorcycle Helmets

Helmets are required by everyone riding a bicycle and by both riders and passengers on motorcycles. The ICBC has a webpage on cycling safety; for bike helmet standards or specifications see the provincial government’s webpage on Bicycle Safety Helmet Standards Regulation. The provincial government has an informative webpage with links on motorcycle safety.

Forest Fires

If you spot a forest fire or any column of smoke while travelling in British Columbia, call the BC Wildfire Service on 1-800-663-5555, or hands-free at *5555 from your cell phone to report a wildfire. For more information, read Travel BC’s page Wildfires and Prevention.

Wildlife Tips and Bear Safety

People come to BC from around the world to see wild animals in their natural habitat, so if you spot an animal while travelling or camping, enjoy the moment. However, to prevent your sighting from becoming an encounter, always respect their space and surroundings and never feed the wildlife. Keep your distance as animals can be easily startled. Don’t actively seek them or chase them – you are in their home!

Black bears do exist outside of urban areas, and they can become a concern around campsites or along trails. Be ‘Bear Aware’ and keep a clean camp; ensure that all food is sealed and locked inside your vehicle or RV or in an animal resistant container.

If a bear is close by, make a noise or use a bear bell and do not run. Do not come between a mother bear and its cub. If you have an actual encounter avoid eye contact and attempt to stay calm and talk in a low voice, then slowly back away (don’t turn your back). If it approaches use a bear spray if you have one or play dead on your stomach and cover the back of your neck. In a worst-case scenario, fight it off with whatever is at your disposal.

To quote BC Parks: “Just because you don’t see a bear doesn’t mean they aren’t around.” For more information on what to do in an animal encounter read their webpages on wildlife safety and staying safe in bear country or the article entitled Bears and Cougars.

Camping Lodging

The Super Camping / Select Lodging Guide

First Published in 1989