Coastal communities in B.C. urged to plan ahead during Tsunami Preparedness Week

Aiya Benaso / April 9, 2019

Every April, Tsunami Preparedness Week reminds British Columbians of the ever-present risk of earthquake and tsunami activity in B.C.

The Provincial Government is encouraging coastal communities to be ready if disaster strikes during Tsunami Preparedness Week.

Every April is a reminder that B.C. is a seismically active province, and the threat posed from a damaging tsunami is a reality.

A tsunami is a series of waves that result from a large and sudden displacement of the ocean, most often caused by a large undersea earthquake.

British Columbians were reminded of this in January 2018, when a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska triggered tsunami warnings in four of five tsunami notification zones, with a tsunami advisory in the fifth.

“The tsunami warning in January was a major wake-up call for coastal communities. That is why our government is working to prepare our citizens for tsunami events, and partnering with the federal government to enhance public alerting capabilities should disaster strike.” – Jennifer Rice, Parlimentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness

   Emergency Management BC recommendations:

  • Familiarize yourself with your local evacuation routes and reception centre locations. Know your risk by checking with your community to find out if your local area is vulnerable to a tsunami threat.
  • If you are near the coast when an earthquake occurs, drop, cover and hold on, and then move to higher ground immediately. In areas along B.C.’s outer coast that do not have evacuation plans or maps, this means at least 20 metres of elevation.
  • Once you reach high ground, stay there. Wait for the “all clear” from your local authorities to confirm the threat is over. Tsunami waves can last several hours.
  • Find out how your community plans to share emergency information (Alerting methods include radio, television, telephone, text messages, door-to-door contact, social media and outdoor sirens)
  • Develop a household emergency plan and assemble an emergency kit.

The reality of risk in the Lower Mainland

The province is divided into 5 tsunami notification zones.

Elizabeth Predham is a public education officer with Prepared BC and she says the Lower Mainland rests in Zone E which is the least at-risk in the B.C.

“However that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be prepared, everyone should still know the signs and know what to do in the case of a tsunami.” – Elizabeth Predham, Prepared BC

Public alerting

Emergency Management BC issues emergency alerts on behalf of the Province and relies on a number of different systems in the event of a tsunami. This includes the Provincial Emergency Notification System, which notifies local governments, emergency response officials and media. Also the Emergency Info BC social media channels and Alert Ready, a national system that currently sends alerts through television, radio networks and wireless devices.

With files from Lya Fichmann.