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Make waves by planning tsunami preparedness week

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People living in coastal communities are encouraged to participate in Tsunami Preparedness Week, April 10-16, 2022, by taking the time to prepare before a tsunami hits.

“British Columbia is a seismically active area and coastal communities are at risk of tsunamis caused by undersea earthquakes or even a volcanic eruption as we saw near the Tonga Islands earlier this year,” said said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “I encourage everyone on the coast to find out about your local public alert and take a high hike with your family to learn how to find heights, which are sometimes only a block or two away.”

Started in 2016, High Ground Hike is an annual community event held during Tsunami Preparedness Week. The goal is to raise awareness of tsunami risk in British Columbia and provide coastal residents with an opportunity to practice reaching their tsunami safety zone.

Height hikes have been offered virtually since 2020. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were held in person. This year, 10 communities, ranging from Stewart to Victoria, are co-hosting virtual hikes, but anyone living in an at-risk area is encouraged to know their tsunami-safe location and practice their local evacuation routes.

“In the event of a tsunami, people have to be ready to react quickly. The key to this rapid response is knowing how you will 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 quickly and safely,” said Josie Osborne, MPP for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. “It is also crucial that residents of at-risk areas have carry-out bags for each member of their household and that they are kept in an accessible location.”

On January 14, 2022, a volcano erupted near the Tonga Islands, triggering a tsunami advisory in parts of British Columbia. It is important to understand the level of concern and the meaning of the notice. During Tsunami Preparedness Week, people are encouraged to get together with their families and learn about the different tsunami warning levels:

  • A news bulletin 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 ready to act.
  • An advisory is issued when strong currents and waves may occur which could be dangerous to people near the water. People should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways.
  • An alert is issued when dangerous coastal flooding and strong currents are possible. People will be asked to move uphill or inland.

A tsunami is a series of waves that result from a sudden large displacement of the ocean that is most often caused by a large undersea earthquake. To prepare before a tsunami occurs, Emergency Management BC recommends:

  • Familiarize yourself with local evacuation routes and visitor center locations.
  • For people near the coast when an earthquake occurs, duck, cover and hold on, then immediately move to higher ground. In areas along the outer coast of British Columbia that do not have evacuation plans or maps, this means at least 20 meters above sea level.
  • Once up, stay there. Wait for “everything is clear” from local authorities to confirm that the threat is over. Tsunami waves can last for several hours.
  • Find out how your community plans to share emergency information. Alerting methods include radio, television, telephone, SMS, door-to-door, social media and outdoor sirens. Always follow the instructions of local authorities in the event of an emergency. Residents of coastal communities should subscribe to local alerts.
  • If you are not in a tsunami area, stay home and be prepared to help family, friends and neighbors who need shelter.

Fast facts:

  • Emergency Management BC is the province’s primary coordinating body for emergency management activities, including preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery.
  • Emergency Management BC issues emergency alerts on behalf of the province and relies on several tsunami warning systems.
  • There are local government emergency alerts, coastal siren systems, door-to-door notifications, social media and the National Public Alerting System, publicly called Alert Ready.
  • The last major tsunami to hit the coasts of British Columbia occurred on March 27, 1964, when waves hit the coast of British Columbia and Port Alberni was flooded following the Great Earthquake of Alaska of magnitude 9.2.

Learn more:

Coastal communities co-hosting virtual high ground hikes and how to enter the #HighGroundSelfie22 contest: preparebc.ca/highgroundhike

Information on tsunami risks and how to prepare for them, visit: gov.bc.ca/PreparedBC/tsunamis

Information on how to prepare a contingency plan and what to include in carry-out bags, follow @PreparedBC (twitter.com) on Twitter or visit: preparebc.ca

For more information during active provincial emergencies, follow on Twitter at @EmergencyInfoBC (twitter.com) or visit: infobc.ca

Factsheet on public alerting systems in British Columbia: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/public-alerting-systems-in-bc