(Black Press Media file photo)

(Black Press Media file photo)

Be prepared: Know what to do in the event of a tsunami warning

Localized alert systems can provide potentially life-saving information

Are you prepared for another tsunami warning?

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake near Sand Point Alaska at approximately 2 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 19) triggered a tsunami warning for that area and put B.C.’s coast on alert.

Nearly two hours later Emergency Management B.C. confirmed the all-clear, but many Greater Victoria residents were left wondering and searching for more information.

READ MORE: No tsunami threat in B.C. after 7.5 magnitude earthquake hits Alaska

In January 2018, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Alaska trigger a tsunami warning for Greater Victoria at approximately 2 a.m. While the warning was eventually called off, it gave local emergency personnel a chance to practice their emergency response plans with residents evacuated in some low lying areas such as the Esquimalt Lagoon.

During the 2018 warning, 276 911 calls were made locally “and that was in the middle of the night,” said Sarah Hunn, Victoria’s emergency management community liaison. “People were calling 911 to ask about the tsunami … it’s not a means to get information,” she emphasized. “We see in other disasters the 911 system get overloaded and crash.”

Many residents also jumped into their vehicles and fled to higher ground, whether that was the top of a local mountain or the Malahat.

“People weren’t identifying what high ground was,” explained Geoff Amy, Colwood’s emergency program coordinator. “You don’t need to go very far up Lagoon Road [in Colwood].”

READ MORE: Vancouver Island First Nations, regional district to roll out tsunami mapping project

In the event of a magnitude 9 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the CRD predicts a tsunami would reach Port Renfrew in approximately 35 minutes with wave heights of up to 11.5 feet (3.5 metres), followed by Sooke Harbour within 60 minutes with waves of over eight feet (2.5 metres) and the Esquimalt and Victoria harbours in 76 minutes with respective wave heights of nearly nine feet (2.7 metres) and eight feet (2.5 metres). It would then reach Cadboro Bay within 90 minutes and Sidney within 110 minutes, with both expected to see waves up to 6.6 feet (two metres).

The CRD considers four metres – 13 feet above sea level – to be a safe distance.

After the 2018 warning, the City of Victoria’s alert system went from approximately 6,000 subscribers to 60,000 within a week.

Different areas also offer alert systems for residents to subscribe to. For example, Colwood, Langford, View Royal and Highlands have partnered on a system called Westshore Alert. The CRD and Township of Esquimalt also offer alert systems for residents.

These localized alert systems are designed to deliver critical and potentially life-saving alerts for events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, evacuation notice or other safety threats. Participation is voluntary and all information is confidential. To learn more about these systems, check out pages 27 and 28 of the Black Press Media Be Ready guide.

Five tsunami notification zones divide B.C.’s coastal communities. When tsunami warnings, watches or advisories are issued, they may make reference to these notification zones, so it is important to know if your home or office falls within one.

Three of the five apply to areas within the Capital Region. They include Zone C – the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, including Port Renfrew (each zone includes all islands and inlets within it); Zone D – the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula; and Zone E – the Strait of Georgia including the Gulf Islands.

READ MORE: New videos highlight southern Vancouver Island’s tsunami risk

This information was pulled from part three of a special eight-part series by Black Press Media on emergency preparedness in Greater Victoria. You can find the full article here and the entire series here. You can also find Black Press Media’s Be Ready emergency preparedness guide online here.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


 

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