January 23, 2018 7:57 pm
Updated: January 24, 2018 4:34 am

Victoria region looks at lessons learned from tsunami warning

Officials at the National Tsunami Center cancelled a tsunami warning issued along the B.C. and Alaska coast after an 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the region 275 kilometres off shore.


Municipalities in B.C.’s capital region say the overnight tsunami warning helped showcase what worked and what can be improved with regards to emergency response.

In Victoria, Tanya Patterson who is responsible for emergency co-ordination says the team was ready for action at 3 a.m.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life’: Tofino visitor describes tsunami threat

She said that unlike areas on the coast such as Tofino, the tsunami danger to the capital is slow moving water.

“That’s why we don’t have the sirens they have up there but we do have the public notification system which we can send out via text and email and cell phone,” said Patterson.

LISTEN: Are municipalities prepared for an earthquake or tsunami?

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Patterson said before the warning, about 6,000 people were signed up for the alert, but by this morning that had increased to 20,000 and that the number is still growing.

Just west of Victoria, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said emergency responders were going door to door to evacuate people in danger zones.

READ MORE: ‘Inevitable’ 9.0 earthquake, tsunami will hit Canada’s West Coast: expert

She said the city will be assessing its process and talking with Victoria about possibly joining the alert system.

“[To] understand what systems are out there, and that we don’t cross reference them,” said Desjardins. She said the city will also will explore Victoria’s phone alert system.

Currently, each municipality is responsible for its own response.

Fire Chief Dave Cockle, head of Emergency Response for Oak Bay says he hopes there’s a universal alert system soon.

“Certainly in other areas I know, like Japan is so far ahead of us on this, they’ve already got apps that are at a national level so that when there is an earthquake or tsunami warning your phones go off and they light up,” he said.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC says, starting April, a direct-to-phone alert system should be up and running.

“This new technology for text and cell broadcasting alerting will be that next evolution and it’s pretty exciting to have this technology that will have further reach,” he said.

Duffy says this national alert system will be used in addition to notification systems that communities already use.

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