If you feel an earthquake, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Then immediately move to the identified high ground areas. (Westerly File photo)

Tsunami waves, earthquakes and COVID-19: What if the worst ‘worst’ case scenario hits the Coast?

“All the basic principles still apply here, in terms of community response.”

Late Tuesday evening, March 24, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Russia’s Kuril Islands prompting the U.S. Tsunami Warning System to issue a tsunami watch alert for Russia and Hawaii.

The Port Alberni Fire Department was swift to contact Emergency Management B.C. to determine if the Coast was at risk of tsunami waves. At 9:10 p.m., Emergency B.C. issued a statement confirming the earthquake was no threat to the B.C. Coast.

Russia’s tsunami scare made a lot of West Coasters wonder about what to do if a tsunami alert was indeed issued for the Coast.

Ucluelet’s fire chief and emergency services manager Rick Geddes and Tofino’s emergency services co-ordinator Keith Orchiston said the basic principles apply: go to high ground.

“For us in Ucluelet, we would still assemble our EOC Team at the fire hall, go over our evacuation plan, and execute the plan. Our main message for people is to go to our high ground “safe” zones. i.e.: the school fields, Tugwell Field, Amphitrite Point etc.,” said Geddes.

Orchiston reiterates.

“All the basic principles still apply here, in terms of community response. If you feel an earthquake, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Then immediately move to the identified high ground areas. Once there we would ask that you maintain social distancing protocols. This will look different depending on where you are (top of Industrial Way, Reception Centre, etc.),” said Orchiston, adding the District of Tofino has specific messaging flagged and ready to send out in the event of an “emergency on emergency”.

The big twist, notes fire chief Geddes, is that we now have thrown into the picture is social distancing due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“To address that, we would stress to people who are not in the inundation zone, that they should shelter in place. Those within the inundation zone would be advised to continue social distancing practices as best they can. This may mean evacuating, but then sheltering in place in your vehicles,” Geddes said.

What do you do if you’re quarantined after returning from an international trip or you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19? It’s like triaging emergencies—deal with the biggest threat first, Port Alberni EOC information manager Karen Freethy said.

“You have to deal with the imminent threat first. That would be the tsunami. It would mean evacuating from your house (if you’re in the inundation zone) because that is the immediate threat, over a potential threat from COVID-19.”

In Port Alberni, the EOC is prepared to open multiple reception centres—the main site is Echo ‘67 Centre on Wallace Street—to aid in social distancing with the number of people expected. Sheltering in a vehicle in the parking lot is acceptable.

“We also know there are a lot of people that would be on foot. We would open reception centres anyway to provide shelter for people coming on foot.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Tsunami not expected for B.C. after 7.5-magnitude earthquake hits near Russia

READ: 4.8 earthquake shakes Vancouver Island’s west coast (Jan. 24, 2020)

CoronavirusPort AlberniTofino,Tsunamiucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ucluelet releases COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Part of the recovery plan involves deploying three district staff as COVID-19 Community Monitors

Tofino mayor urges “kindness” as tourism reopens

“Health and safety matters to everyone.”

Resorts in Tofino and Ucluelet prepare to reopen in June

“We need to get the tourist economy in our communities back up and running.”

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve plans limited reopening on June 4

The Park Reserve shut down on March 18 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pacific Rim Hospice Society gifting free wellness “check-ins” to all West Coast residents

“This pandemic has led to a lot of isolation and it’s helpful for anybody just to have a soundboard.”

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Stepdad able to walk bride down the aisle days before he passes away

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Most Read