A report to council from Heather Nelson-Smith, director of corporate services, was on Port Hardy Council’s agenda at their meeting Dec. 14, regarding alternative warning systems for tsunami preparedness.
In her report, Nelson-Smith wrote that “the subcommittee reviewed different options including the following: telephone call out systems, text SMS alerts, Facebook twitter and website, radio/tv, sirens, and first responder fan out.”
Nelson-Smith continued with her analysis, stating that “the subcommittee reviewed the different options above and found that while most of those options were preferable, there were considerations that had to be taken into account including when the event occurs, such as time of day or night, winter or summer, short or long notification.
“The subcommittee felt that the siren was the only option to cover all of the concerns of time of day and length of warning (close event or cross continental). This option will prevent the need for emergency responders to put themselves within the hazard zone of the event. The subcommittee also determined that a project of this magnitude should be completed in phases. The Beaver Harbour/Storey’s Beach area was determined to be the most high-risk area, given that it is further away from the town and the majority of the area is within the six-metre tsunami zone.”
The subcommittee’s recommendation to council was to request that a tsunami warning siren be purchased and installed in the Beaver Harbour area.
Costs have been estimated at approximately $20,000 for the purchase of a siren, however installation costs have not yet been determined.
“We should take a look at this report and have a discussion,” said Mayor Hank Bood. “I’m curious as to what the total cost of this is going to be,” said Councillor Leightan Wishart.
“Are there grants out there?” asked Councillor Fred Robertson, who was informed that nobody has investigated yet if there are any available.
“In this report it says ‘purchased and installed’. I’m not against this motion per se, but I’m wondering what budget year it’s coming out of, and if we should have a little bit more investigation into the cost of it,” said Councillor Pat Corbett-Labatt.
“At the finance meeting I suggested that we throw something in to a reserve for something like this,” said Councillor John Tidbury. “I mentioned not only this system, but other ideas, too, like a generator and things like that.”
“Is this something that really needs to be dealt with?” asked Wishart. “I have done a lot of investigating on the possibility of a tsunami in Port Hardy and my way of thinking is that it’s very slight. To spend $20,000 or $30,000 on something that probably will never be used, seems to me a waste of money.”
“We have the lowest tsunami hazard possibility on the island, so I think council needs to talk about the fact that this is suggesting a six-metre tsunami wave when we’re not in a high exposure area,” said Bood. “In my point of view, I agree with Wishart that we gotta be careful with our funds and make sure we’re not chasing something that might not be there. There’s options here, we can take the motion to a meeting where we actually have a full and detailed report from staff.”
“That’s my suggestion,” agreed Robertson. “If that proves to be the case, then that’s the report we will get, and if there proves to be a more significant hazard, then we’ll get that report on it as well.”
“We need to do more investigation before we spend the money. The motion on the table is about purchasing and installing, so I’m going to be voting against it,” said Wishart.
After a split vote, the motion was not carried. “Do we want to go further on the subject?” asked Mayor Bood.
“Can I move another motion that the subcommittee be asked to conduct further research on possibilities for the need of a tsunami warning system?” asked Robertson.
Council seconded that motion and it was carried.
“We will have staff look into the issue and then bring back a report to council on the need for a tsunami warning system,” confirmed Mayor Bood.