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Earthquake near Tofino a wake up call to get prepared

“You want to look around and imagine what would happen in a major earthquake.”
Event’s like April’s High Ground Hike help Tofino prepare locals for an emergency. (Photo - Keith Orchiston)

A small earthquake shook the West Coast last week.

The 4.8 magnitude quake’s epicentre was recorded roughly 170 kilometres off Tofino on Oct. 11 at 2:26 a.m.

“Typically we get one 5.0 magnitude and three 4.0 magnitudes [per year], or somewhere in that range. There was nothing remarkable about this earthquake, but it was a good reminder for us that we live in an area that’s at risk for earthquakes,” Tofino’s Emergency Program Coordinator Keith Orchiston told the Westerly News.

“There’s a 30 per cent chance of an 8.0 magnitude, or higher, earthquake happening over the next 50 years, so we need to be prepared for it.”

He said locals should secure their homes and workplaces by looking for hazards, like heavy objects on high shelves, to create as safe a space as possible and having an evacuation plan ahead of time to avoid scrambling when emergency strikes.

He added all homes should have an emergency grab-and-go kit packed and locals should make sure any important documents and identification cards are accessible. He encourages locals to check out to brush up on what they need to know. The West Coast will test out its emergency response during The Great British Columbia ShakeOut event being held province-wide on Oct. 19 at 10:19 a.m, where everyone is encouraged to drop to the ground and seek cover while thinking about what would happen in an actual event.

“You want to look around and imagine what would happen in a major earthquake,” Orchiston said. “What would fall? Identify hazards. What would be the damage and what would be your next steps. Consider what to do after the shaking stops.”

Thursday’s ShakeOut will include an Emergency Fair at Wickaninnish Community School where students and parents will meet emergency responders to learn about preparedness.

Orchiston said building relationships between the community and first responders is a key way to create community resilience and “normalize” important safety conversations that don’t often strike up naturally.

“There’s definitely a process that’s required to breach that gap because I have found, in the short period of time that I’ve been in this position, that some people are afraid to talk about these things,” he said. “It is a difficult message to get out there and it’s a difficult motivation to connect with, because it’s different for everybody. It’s complex and, I think, that’s part of the reason why it’s hard from the district’s point of view; there’s no real straight-forward formula for getting everybody onboard.”

He said the district is putting together events and workshops designed to bring the community together and infuse family-fun activities into emergency planning.

“We did that with the High Ground Hike and, I felt, that was really successful so I want to try and emulate that moving forward,” he said.

The High Ground Hike was held in April and was designed to show families the best route to take to reach safe ground in the case of a tsunami. The event included a fair at the Tofino Community Hall that included face painting, balloon making and a scavenger hunt for kids to participate in, while meeting members of 16 emergency response organizations.

Tofino also launched Business Continuity Workshops this year to help local businesses prepare for recovery.

“At the end of the day our community is made up of the businesses and individuals that live here,” Orchiston said. “Without them, we don’t really have a community. So, we want to make sure they’re able to continue after a major emergency disaster happens.”

He said everyone’s reasons for being prepared are different, but locals must understand that their community needs them to make it through a disaster.

“You’re important,” he said. “I love this community and I love the community members and this place isn’t the same without you or me or our friends and families. I want to make sure that this community is resilient…Everyone matters.”

The district will be testing it’s One Call Notification System on Thursday and locals can sign up at

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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