B.C.’s West Coast woke up to text alerts and closed shorelines Saturday morning as a volcanic eruption near the Tonga Islands caused a tsunami advisory across Vancouver Island.
Tofino mayor Dan Law told Black Press Media that the district’s emergency operations centre was activated shortly after 5 a.m. and sent out emergency notifications to local phones through its Voyent Alert program as well as through social media channels.
“In the event of an emergency, communication is key,” Law said. “The word was out so fast and it was so widespread that it seemed like most people knew what was going on.”
Tsunami all clear! Thanks for the updates from @TofinoCA @UclueletGov. Everyone is asked to use caution at local beaches and be #CoastSmart!#Tofino #Ucluelet #StaySafe #BCTsunami pic.twitter.com/eDpiuP1pW2— Josie Osborne (@Josie_Osborne) January 15, 2022
He said shorelines were immediately closed, tsunami sirens were activated and local RCMP combed the beaches to ensure everyone was aware of the tsunami advisory.
“There were still obviously people on the beaches, but we did get the word out that the beaches were closed, to stay off the beaches and out of the water because of the risk of increased currents, the possibility of increased wave heights and unpredictable wave behaviour,” he said. “I’m again proud of our Emergency Operations Centre personnel, the RCMP, the Coast Guard and all of our emergency systems. I’m very thankful that we live in a society that takes this seriously and everybody’s working together for the betterment of the whole.”
Ucluelet’s shoreline areas were also closed and mayor Mayco Noel was thrilled with how quickly and efficiently the district’s emergency operations centre alerted residents of the situation.
“There was no hesitation, we got the advisory and promptly posted it and I think it went really well,” Noel told the Westerly News.
He explained that Ucluelet’s tsunami sirens were not activated as they are reserved for rapidly incoming emergencies.
“That means we’ve got something immediate that’s coming towards our shoreline and go to high ground,” he said.
Both Law and Noel are urging residents to sign up for their district’s emergency notification programs at www.ucluelet.ca and www.tofino.ca.
“There are local emergencies that residents may need to know in a prompt fashion, signing up for this makes it a lot easier and streamlines the process for the district, rather than having a bunch of firefighters knocking on every door,” Noel said. “Thank you to those who have signed up and if you haven’t signed up, please sign up.”
The advisory lasted over eight hours and Law said the Emergency Operations Centre remained active, monitoring all of the information coming from the province before eventually standing down in the afternoon.
“The more advisories we have, hopefully the more people will be prepared,” Law said. “These events are a fantastic time for people to get up to speed on communication, up to speed on emergency preparedness and, each time it happens, I hope people really do review the process, build on strengths and certainly use the chance to prepare for future events.”
He added all West Coasters should be aware of their tsunami evacuation routes to high ground and have emergency preparedness kits packed and ready to go.
“I think that the more people are aware, the more it will become part of the norm to be prepared,” he said. “It will become part of the norm that we live in an area that’s prone to these emergencies and that we have to be prepared as part of our everyday life.”