In case of quake, tsunami: What’s YOUR plan?

Did you feel the recent magnitude 6.7 earthquake off Nootka Sound? It was another wake-up call to check how well we are prepared for a bigger disaster.

Here are a few emergency preparedness and response matters.

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 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 the recent Emergency Forum on March 24, a Natural Resources Canada seismologist said 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.

There are 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).

An earthquake of this magnitude along the Nootka fault typically occurs every 10 years.

The Nootka fault slides between the north end of the Juan de Fuca Plate and the south end of a small tectonic plate called the Explorer Plate.

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), Step 2 is to 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, Step 3 is to go to the High 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 visit the District of Ucluelet’s website under Community Notices and Emergency Management.

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 6.7 earthquake on Apr 23, 2014, please visit the District of Ucluelet’s website to learn how you can share your experience with Natural Resources Canada and the US Geological Survey. For more information about emergency preparedness and response, please visit the District of Ucluelet’s website under Community Notices and Emergency Management..

Karla Robison is the environmental & emergency service manager for the District of Ucluelet.

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