A tsunami warning was issued for the coast of B.C. early Tuesday morning. (Flickr photo)

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins experienced both sides of the tsunami alert that woke many Vancouver Island residents in the wee hours of this morning.

As a leader, and as an evacuee.

As the head of the municipality she was concerned that the Township’s emergency response systems worked the way they were supposed to. But as a resident of a float home in West Bay, which could be very vulnerable in the event of a tsunami, she joined her husband and their neighbours in packing a bag and moving to higher ground, in this case the Esquimalt Recreation Centre.

“I felt it went quite smoothly,” she said. “Everyone seemed calm, they seemed prepared. As we went around, staff had given me the sense we had about an hour to be out. We were waking people from dead sleep telling them ‘you need to get out,’ liveaboards as well. But there was no panic, it was an orderly evacuation.”

RELATED: Tsunami warning ended for Greater Victoria

Esquimalt’s emergency preparedness people were at the centre ready to receive people, many of whom were alerted by members of the Esquimalt Fire Department who were patrolling coastline neighbourhoods. Despite their efforts, some people didn’t seem to get the alert.

According to Desjardins, many residents of Esquimalt count on the Department of National Defence sirens at CFB Esquimalt, but they didn’t go off.

“So that’s something that for our community we have to understand and follow up because there seems to be a couple of community expectations that that is a signal for us,” she said.

Capt. Jenn Jackson, base public affairs officer with CFB Esquimalt, said they didn’t sound the alarm because the tsunami threat wasn’t imminent and they didn’t want to cause a panic.

“In consultation with Emergency Management B.C. and other sources such as CUS Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it was determined that the threat to Victoria was not imminent and that continued monitoring of the effects further north would give us ample time to sound the alarms if needed,” she said, adding if the threat was imminent to Victoria, then the sirens would have been sounded.

They did, however, sound the alarm in Port Alberni about one hour after word first came out about the earthquake

RELATED: Sirens sound Tsunami warning in Port Alberni

“We’re actually discussing the amount of time between our first notifications of a possible tsunami and the first trigger of the warning sirens,” Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan said after the all clear had been issued. “There was almost an hour. We didn’t have actual confirmation that a wave was going to hit here with some force.”

Not wanting to panic residents unnecessarily, they waited, he said. When it did sound, it was with mixed results. Resident Steve Myers it wasn’t loud enough for some residents to be woken up.

“I didn’t hear it,” he said. “I woke up to about 50 texts on my phone at about 6 a.m. this morning.”

Despite their ineffectiveness in his case, Myers said he’s surprised he didn’t hear them and he thinks they are an important community asset, not just for Alberni, but for Greater Victoria and other coastal cities as well.

“Considering they’re right on the coast and the tip of the Island, it’s probably pretty important,” Myers said.

Monika Blats, another Port Alberni resident, agrees.

“Sirens are probably the most important part (in an emergency) because you need to be alerted and know what’s going on,” she said. “If you don’t have a siren how do you know to get out?”

RELATED: Between 25 and 30 homes evacuated in Colwood

City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps praised the response of local emergency officials, but nonetheless urged residents to sign up for the city’s alert system VicAlert.

‘The most important takeaway is that everybody should sign up for Vic-Alert,” he said.

Helps found about the alert at 2:30 a.m. and spent her morning at the emergency operations centre that the municipality had set up at Victoria’s Fire Hall #1 from where senior staff monitored the situation and issued alerts via social media, email, and even landlines.

“I felt very safe,” she said. “We had a run-through for this [near the start of the current term]. Everything went exactly as planned. Our staff was calm. I was calm.”

While City of Victoria staff did not evacuate any individuals, staff were prepared to handle evacuees, if necessary, Helps said.

Victoria does not have a siren system, and Helps warned against rushed calls for such a system. “You need to be very careful to place [such a system] in urban areas,” she said, adding that they can cause confusion.

So did Victoria dodge a bullet here? “I guess you can say it that way,” she said. “I’m glad our residents are safe.”

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

Just Posted

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 1: Surrey’s two largest hotels close, BC Hydro offers bill credit

White Rock/South Surrey experts launch website of mental-health resources

Together White Rock/South Surrey aims to help ease the search for supports

Surrey’s two largest hotels are now closed due to COVID-19; room bookings plummet elsewhere

Guildford’s 77-room Four Points property remains open with ‘minimum amount of business,’ GM says

No, Delta police are not pulling over cars to check for social distancing

DPD dispelling rumour cops pulling over vehicles with two or more people, checking IDs, issuing fines

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix had sharp words for those arriving from overseas abiding by federal law

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

Most Read

l -->