Emergency Social Services

Emergency Social Services (ESS) refers to the short-term provision of essential survival needs for people who are displaced from their homes in an emergency or disaster. ESS may include registration and inquiry, food, clothing, lodging, personal services such as emotional support, support for dependants, and pet care. The exact type of Emergency Social Services provided depends on people's needs and the scope and scale of an emergency.

In Waterloo Region, ESS is coordinated and provided by the Region of Waterloo in collaboration with municipalities and numerous agencies and organizations, such as:

  • Canadian Red Cross
  • St. John Ambulance
  • The Salvation Army
  • Victim Services
  • Local Health Integration Network
  • KW and Cambridge Humane Society
  • KW Amateur Radio Club

Level 1 Emergency Social Services

In small scale emergency situations when people are displaced by a personal disaster such as a house fire, the First Response Protocol (FRP) may be activated.  On scene Incident Command notifies the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) when displaced people are in need of assistance.  Services CRC may provide include: lodging, food, clothing, transportation, personal services and referrals to community partners and other support organizations. Incident Command may also request Grand River Transit (GRT) to provide buses for temporary shelter from the elements or transportation to lodging sites. 

    Residential House 



Apartment Building    


Level 2 Emergency Social Services

This category addresses large scale emergencies such as an apartment fire, neighbourhood flooding, or evacuation of more than  25 people.  In this size of emergency, the Regional Emergency Social Services Plan (ESSP) may be activated. The Region works in collaboration with municipalities and community partners to coordinate ESS for those in need. 

When the complexity of the emergency has forced people from their homes overnight or for an undetermined length of time, a Reception Centre may be established as a safe gathering place to receive people and coordinate ESS. Reception Centres are designated  facilities throughout the Region such as community centres, arenas,  and other venues. 

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