Reception Centres 101

How a Reception Centre Works

Reception centres are divided into a number of different stations each designed to fulfill one need.  Based on the  needs assessment completed at the "registration" station, you may be referred to some or none of the other stations. The individual stations are registration, inquiry, food, lodging, pets, medical care, victim services, insurance and disaster recovery. Everyone should visit the registration station but your level of preparedness will dictate which other stations you need to visit.


This function records everyone, by legal last name, who comes to the reception centre. Here contact information is logged into a secure stand alone data base so that you can be provided with updates as they are known. Depending on the situation, registration may also be accomplished by phone.

Registering does not mean you have to stay in the centre - it just helps responders account for evacuees and to keep them informed as updates are known. This process is also a means of helping to halt the spread of false information coming from unconfirmed sources.

Workers at this station will also provide a needs assessment to see if any of the other stations can be of assistance to you.


This function allows persons who are looking for family members, or members of the same family who have gone to different reception centers, to be re-united. In order to do this the registration team must have your permission to share information otherwise everything collected is strictly confidential.

This process is very chaotic especially in the first few hours of an evacuation. A good Family Emergency Plan will take a lot of pressure off of this section because in a family plan re-connection is completed through predetermined family members.

FOOD: This function is to accommodate persons who have not been able to eat in some time or who may be staying in the reception center as a temporary residence. Food allergies and preferences are accommodated as best as possible. You can assist by packing staples that are conducive to your special diet in your Emergency Preparedness Kit. Food staff and volunteers will help as much as they can in the preparation of special dietary foods so as to prevent cross contamination. Just let them know your concerns.
LODGING: Reception Centers will have some dormitory style areas for sleeping and eating however these will not be very private or comfortable; especially for longer term evacuations. If you have access to private lodging you will be much more comfortable there. In many cases your insurance policy will contain provisions for temporary shelter during events. 

Pets are generally not allowed in the reception centre; however, as best as possible alternate accommodation will be provided for them or at the very least directions to resources equipped to handle various animals.

Service Animals or Guide Dogs are always welcome in reception centers so make sure you notify staff of their role.


Alberta Health Services will be notified of any reception center location and as they are able will provide emergency health care on site. This may mean a single ambulance or several nurses but they will have trained personnel available to assist.

They also perform a secondary role in providing inspections of the food handling and washroom facilities through their Environmental Health Department. This will help in preventing anyone from contracting or spreading diseases within the communal structure of reception centres.

VICTIM SERVICES:  The local victim service unit as well as other trained trauma resources will be on hand to assist as they can. Depending on the situation it may take these resources some time to assemble and travel to the reception center site but clergy and councilors will be made available and crisis lines are always available.
INSURANCE:  Many of the major insurance companies will respond agents to the reception centers to assist clients on a one to one basis. Depending on your insurance policy and circumstance they may be able to assist with living arrangements, cash and transportation as needed.
DISASTER RECOVERY PROGRAM: This is a government lead program that will assist victims with uninsured losses. This program will take some time to implement so it is not usually available in the first few days of an event.

Note: A serious event will affect everyone, even the volunteers and staff that are assisting in reception (evacuation) centres. Workers in reception centres may also be faced with the loss of their home, the unknown welfare of loved ones or employment loss. Be aware that your story may be impacting them more than you realize.