Tips for earthquake and tsunami readiness on West Coast

 

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.

To receive earthquake, tsunami, and other weather alert emails and SMS services, please see the links outlined below. 

• The UNESCO link https://lists.unesco.org/wws/info/tsunami-information-ioc subscribes you to receive earthquake/tsunami statements from the National Weather Service (NWS) National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC) statement from Palmer Alaska and/or the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) statements from Ewa Beach, Hawaii.

• The US Geological Survey (USGS) link https://sslearthquake.usgs.gov/ens/ will subscribe you to receive earthquake notifications. 

• Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC’s) link http://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/…/resources-and-inform … outlines a variety of emergency alerts through twitter, text and email services.

• The National Weather Service link http://www.weather.gov/subscribe has a variety of additional email and SMS weather alert services.

If you’re receiving these messages, please take your time, read the statements thoroughly, and look at the time sequence the statements were sent and not received. Please take the time to understand the differences between the 5 tsunami alert levels: warning, advisory, watch, information statement, and cancellation as this will determine your response.

 

The Provincial department responsible for emergency preparedness in BC is Emergency Management BC (EMBC). During a possible tsunami event, EMBC reissues the National Weather Service (NWS) National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC) statements with a BC-specific tsunami messages to local emergency personnel through the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS). There are 5 tsunami zones for British Columbia. Ucluelet and Tofino are located in Zone C, which consists of the outer west coast from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew.

 

If you felt the M 4.8 quake on Jan 7, 2015, please share your experience at: 

• Natural Resources Canada – http://www.earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/concon-eng.php

• USGS – http://www.usgs.gov/faq/categories/9836/3131

 

For more information about emergency preparedness and response, please visit EMBC’s http://www.embc.gov.bc.ca/index.htm and the District of Ucluelet’s (Emergency Services) http://ucluelet.ca/…/emergency-manage…/personal-preparedness websites.

 

Karla Robison, Environmental & Emergency Service Manager – District of Ucluelet