March 21, 2019 7:48 pm

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts updates to evacuation procedures

WATCH (Aired Jan. 23, 2018) Hundreds of people fled their homes in the dead of night bracing for what could have been a devastating wave before a tsunami warning for the B.C. coast was cancelled. Kylie Stanton reports from Tofino.

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Researchers say a tsunami alert in British Columbia that rang out in the dead of night 14 months ago serves as a preparation blueprint for coastal communities that face the ever-present threat of tidal waves.

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Ryan Reynolds, a post doctoral risk modelling expert at the University of British Columbia, says the tsunami threat in Port Alberni saw more than 90 per cent of households in warning zones flee for higher ground, but there were glitches before the alert was lifted at 4:30 a.m.

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

He says in a report released Thursday that some people didn’t understand why community sirens were blaring and others were looking for confirmation of the alert on social media, but the community’s emergency response system did not immediately inform residents of the potential danger.

WATCH: (Aired Jan. 23, 2018) Coverage of the early morning tsunami warning on Globalnews.ca

A magnitude 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska prompted the tsunami alert along much of Canada’s West Coast, including Port Alberni, which was hit by a tsunami in March 1964 following a 9.2 earthquake off Alaska.

Reynolds says his research involved interviews with more than 400 local residents and numerous city officials, including an interview with a family that had just moved to the community and were roused by neighbours who urged them to flee.

READ MORE: Victoria region looks at lessons learned from tsunami warning

He says the research found more than 60 per cent of residents have updated their tsunami evacuation plans since the alert, and community and regional officials have better co-ordinated social media services and response tactics.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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