20 Meters in 20 Minutes!

Did you feel the recent magnitude 4.8 earthquake off Tofino? It is another wake-up call to check how well we are prepared for a bigger disaster. Let’s start with the basics… Public Safety Canada is the Federal department responsible for emergency preparedness in Canada. This department emphasizes three steps to emergency preparedness: know the risks where you live, make a plan, and get a kit.

It should not be a secret to anyone living on the west coast that our highest impact risk is an earthquake and/or tsunami. Every household should have an emergency plan and basic supplies for a minimum of 72 hours. Since we ‘live on the edge’ we should have emergency supplies for up to 7 days!

Let’s talk about the worst case scenario and the reality that it could happen.

At an Emergency Forum on Mar 24, 2014 a Natural Resources Canada seismologist explained that there is a 1 in 3 chance that a magnitude 7 to 9 earthquake will occur in the next 50 years along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

It is important to understand the two different types of earthquakes. The recent quake was a strike slip fault, which generally do not create tsunamis (these earthquakes happen quite frequently off our coast).

A megathrust earthquake is a different story… These earthquakes are known to almost always generate significant series of tsunamis, as the megathrust occurs at subduction zones at destructive plate boundaries, where one tectonic plate is subducted by another.

So, more importantly… what will you and your family do if a megathrust earthquake occurs followed by a series of tsunamis?

Step 1: Drop, Cover, and Hold On! The ground will shake for approx. 3 to 5 minutes; this is your tsunami siren! You and your families will then have approx. 20 minutes to get to high ground before the first tsunami wave hits the coastline. This is the why Ucluelet’s Emergency Coordinating Committee created the slogan, ’20 Meters in 20 Minutes’! When the shaking stops and you have assembled your family and grabbed your emergency kit (s), proceed to Step 2. Step 2: Evacuate to the closest community safe zone. In Ucluelet there are 6 community safe zones: 1. High School and Associated Fields – elev. is approx. 27 m/90 ft.

2. Reef Point High Points – elev. is approx. 27 m/90 ft.

3. Coast Guard Road High Points – elev. is approx. 24 m/80 ft. (parking lot in the forest) 4. Tugwell Fields – elev. is approx. 25 m/85 ft.

5. Hyphocus Island High Points – elev. is approx. 52 m/177 ft.

6. Millstream High Points – elev. is approx. 35 m/110 ft. (industrial area) After the danger has passed and local government authorities have informed you can leave higher ground proceed to Step 3. Step 3: Go to Ucluelet’s Secondary School for information and assistance. While travelling be aware of hazards such as downed power lines, debris, damaged roadways, unstable buildings, etc.

For additional links, see READINESS story on www.westerlynews.ca

Karla Robison is the Environmental Emergency Service Manager for the District of Ucluelet.