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.”

Just Posted

Langley-based Giants receive awards, gear up for Friday playoffs

Ty Ronning walked away six different 2017-18 team awards.

Letter: That other Langley letter writer should be censored

Township and City governance can’t be compared, one Langley resident writes.

VIDEOS: Langley university beats Castlegar to win first-ever league championship

Blue fans hope their support – literally painting themselves in blue – helped secure TWU’s victory.

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Metro mayors to hike transit fares, property taxes to pay for transit projects

Next phase includes Broadway subway, Surrey LRT and replacement of the Pattullo Bridge

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

VIDEO: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

B.C. man to plead guilty in connection with hit-and-run that killed teen

Jason Gourlay charged with failure to stop at the scene of accident, attempting to obstruct justice

BCHL Today: Wenatchee Wild goaltenders a cause for concern

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Canadian survivors, supporters rally against proposed ’60s Scoop settlement

Some have accused the government of underestimating the number of survivors

Nordic athlete Arendz to be Canada’s flagbearer at Paralympic closing ceremony

The biathlete and cross-country skier from Hartsville has raced to five medals in Pyeongchang

VIDEO: ‘Big time disappointment’ as Vancouver Giants fall to undermanned Kelowna Rockets

Head coach Jason McKee very unhappy with effort in Giants’ regular season home finale

Most Read