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New tsunami siren installed in Tofino

District eventually hopes to have six in place to warn beachgoers of incoming danger.
A new tsunami siren was installed at Tofino’s South Chesterman Beach. (Photo - Aaron Rodgers)

A new tsunami siren has been installed at South Chesterman Beach and should be operational by the end of the month.

It is Tofino’s third tsunami siren with the first two being installed in 2012 at Cox Bay and North Chesterman.

“South Chesterman has been a bit of a deadzone for us when the sirens are going off at Cox Bay and North Chesterman because of the way the topography of the peninsula is,” Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly News.

The cost to purchase and install the siren came in around $67,000, according to Rodgers.

He said the siren was purchased from the same company as the prior two, but is different from them in that it is fitted to a wooden pole rather than a metal one and that the decision to go with wood came after discussions with engineers and surrounding communities where Tofino heard sirens are needed to warn of a tsunami, not withstand one.

“What you really want the sirens there for are to warn people of a tsunami. After the tsunami, you’re probably less concerned about the state of that siren; it’s achieved its function,” he said.

Tofino ultimately hopes to have six sirens throughout the community and Rodgers said the next one is expected to be installed in 2021 and will likely go at Mackenzie Beach.

The district tests its sirens on the first Friday of every month by belting Winchester Chimes out of each one. In an actual emergency, an audio message will be broadcast.

“We type in the message we want to get out and it gets broadcast out through the sirens,” Rodgers said.

He said locals should not be concerned if they cannot hear the Winchester Chimes test in town, because the sirens are primarily designed to alert beachgoers and anyone downtown is most likely already in a tsunami safe zone at 20 metres above sea level.

“It’s basically to make beach users aware, whether they be locals or tourists,” he said. “This is something Tofino wanted to do to provide an additional level of awareness around tsunamis…and to make sure that we could help people be a little bit safer.”

He said the sirens are not only important in keeping tourists safe, but also helping to infuse peace of mind into the Tofitian experience.

“We’re a caring community. We care about everybody and we want to make sure that, when people come in to visit our area, we’re providing an enjoyable, safe experience,” he said adding both Tourism Tofino and the Chamber of Commerce have suggested tourists appreciate the sirens’ sense of security.

“There’s a lot of people that hear about tsunamis and they get a bit nervous about whether they should come out here,” he said. “It comforts people and hopefully makes the decision to come to Tofino less fraught with anxiety.”

Rodgers encourages all locals to ensure they have signed up for Tofino’s One Call Notification system through to be alerted of any emergencies. He added all West Coasters should have a grab-and-go emergency kit in their home as well as at least one-week’s supply of food on hand.

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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