Tsunami Preparedness Week begins April 10

Image shows a 6.4 magnitude quake recorded 95 km north of Port Alice on Sept. 9, 2011. || B.C. government image.
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The provincial government is encouraging people living in coastal communities to participate in Tsunami Preparedness Week, from April 10-16.

“B.C. is a seismically active area, and coastal communities are at risk for tsunamis caused by undersea earthquakes or even a volcanic eruption like we saw near the Tonga Islands earlier this year,” said Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness. “I encourage everyone on the coast to learn about your local public alerting and to do a high ground hike with your family to learn how to find high ground, which is sometimes only a block or two away.”

The High Ground Hike is a community event held during Tsunami Preparedness Week each year. The goal is to raise awareness about B.C.’s tsunami risk and give coastal residents an opportunity to practice reaching their tsunami safe zone, according to a media release by Emergency Management BC.

The hikes have been offered virtually since 2020. Ten communities are co-hosting virtual hikes, but anyone living in a risk zone is encouraged to learn their tsunami-safe location and practice their local evacuation routes, according to the release.

“In the event of a tsunami, people must be ready to respond quickly. The key to that quick response is knowing how you’ll receive information about a threat, where to go and how to get there. High Ground Hike is an opportunity to build muscle memory, so you can react swiftly and safely,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. “It’s also crucial that residents in risk areas have grab-and-go bags for each member of their household and that they’re kept in an accessible location.”

A volcano erupted near the Tonga Islands on Jan. 14, which triggered a tsunami advisory in parts of B.C. During Tsunami Preparedness Week, people are encouraged to get together with their family and learn about the different levels of tsunami alerts:

-An information statement is issued when there is no threat or when a very distant event occurs that is good to be aware of;

-A watch is issued when a distant tsunami is possible. People should stay tuned for information and be prepared to act;

-An advisory is issued when strong currents and waves may occur that could be dangerous to people close to the water. People should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways;

-A warning is issued when dangerous coastal flooding and strong currents are possible. People will be instructed to move to high ground or inland.

To prepare before a tsunami occurs, Emergency Management BC recommends:

-Become familiar with local evacuation routes and reception centre locations;

-For people near the coast when an earthquake occurs, drop, cover and hold on, and then move to higher ground immediately. In areas along B.C.’s outer coast that do not have evacuation plans or maps, this means at least 20 m of elevation;

-Once reaching high ground, stay there. Wait for the “all clear” from local authorities to confirm the threat is over. Tsunami waves can last several hours;

-Find out how your community plans to share emergency information. Alerting methods include radio, television, telephone, text messages, door-to-door contact, social media and outdoor sirens. Always follow instructions from local authorities during an emergency. People in coastal communities should subscribe to local alerts.

Emergency Management BC is the province’s lead co-ordinating agency for emergency management activities, including preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery. It issues emergency alerts on behalf of the province and relies on several alerting systems in the event of a tsunami.

The last major tsunami to hit B.C. shores was on March 27, 1964, when Port Alberni was flooded following the 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake.

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