VICTORIA – To continue to protect the public safety of British Columbians, government is modifying and enhancing its emergency tsunami notification processes to offer greater broadcast of initial alerts to the public, local authorities and emergency responders.
“We made a commitment to review our earthquake and tsunami response and we are now taking action to implement some of the early recommendations identified,” Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond said. “I am confident that these steps taken by Emergency Management BC will enhance how we provide tsunami alerts quickly to British Columbians, local authorities, media and first responders, regardless of whether they are at home or on-the-go.”
The provincial emergency system came under fire from critics late last month for its slow response in disseminating tsunami warning and alert information following the 7.7-magnitude earthquake that struck near Haida Gwaii. North Vancouver Island fell under the alert and residents in low-lying areas were evacuated, but local responders were not mustered for the evacuation until an hour after the quake struck.
“We have also been in direct contact with those mayors who expressed concern about B.C.’s emergency response reaction time and have communicated with regional district board chairs, local authorities and first responders, gathering their feedback,” said Bond. “As we continue with
the review, this will be incorporated into further action steps wecan take to ensure public safety is protected.”
Through this process, when Emergency Management BC (EMBC) receives an alert directly from the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre (WCATWC), it will now forward it immediately to a priority emergency e-mail distribution list that includes all local authorities and first responders that receive provincial emergency notification system (PENS) updates. The list also contains major provincial media contacts, including those best suited to alert communities at risk of a potential tsunami. This system will be tested throughout the next month to ensure complete functionality.
Once the notification has been provided via the initial e-mail distribution, EMBC will be posting information on its Twitter account, @EmergencyInfoBC, blog and other social media outlets to
continue to update British Columbians throughout a potential disaster.
B.C.’s ongoing review into October’s tsunami warning response identified this modified process as one that would more quickly disseminate tsunami information and push it out to those who need to
The review has also identified additional improvements — specifically aimed at timeliness and greater public accessibility to these alerts — which have now been implemented, including:
• A mobile version of the EMBC blog, available at www.EmergencyInfoBC.gov.bc.ca;
• If you have an RSS app on your smartphone, you have the ability to sign up for blog notifications at www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/atom.xml;
• Approved partner Twitter accounts that @EmergencyInfoBC can retweet to followers while B.C.-specific information is being confirmed;
• Development underway of an interactive map of tsunami warning zones, including a community finder, so the public can determine whether they are at risk should there be a warning;
• Template blog posts to increase the speed of information posted to the EMBC blog; and
• Digital recordings that will be made available of the latest tsunami warning information on EMBC’s SoundCloud site: soundcloud.com/bcgov/sets/emergencyinfobc
Another reason for this early action is that the US National Weather Service (NWS) notified EMBC this weekend that it will be modifying the service delivery of its alerts for B.C. and other jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. Specifically, while EMBC will still receive alerts directly, the NWS will no longer be issuing email and SMS tsunami notifications to the public, most local authorities and emergency responders starting in 30 days. It has indicated that current users of its e-mail alert system will be able to subscribe through an alternative provider, but details of how to do this have not yet been made available.
Going forward, the NWS has committed to continue sending out tsunami notifications on its NWS Tsunami Alerts Twitter account, @NWS_WCATWC. Government is encouraging British Columbians and their families to sign up to receive these updates via SMS alerts by texting “follow NWS_WCATWC” to 21212. You can also sign up to receive additional alerts from EMBC by texting “follow emergencyinfobc” to the same number.