With local municipalities still implementing lessons learned from the pair of tsunami scares facing the North Island late last year, residents of Tsulquate Reserve in Port Hardy are taking steps to ensure the area is equipped to handle any further warnings.
Bob Swain, Emergency Planning officer for the reserve, met with other Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw leaders last week seeking approval to move ahead with plans for a temporary siren system to act as an early warning for residents.
The District of Port Hardy has plans to install a more comprehensive series of klaxons in vulnerable areas but the cost — early estimates placed the price of a siren system at $80,000 — is proving a stumbling block to progress, as the district seeks the most cost-effective solution.
Swain believes he has found a low-cost, if shorter-term, alternative after finding inspiration from a local business.
Swain’s plan is to repurpose a pair of alarms like those used at Keltic Seafoods to warn of an ammonia leak. While not as robust or loud as those being investigated by the district, he believes that they would fill the necessary role, alerting nearby residents of a warning simply and effectively, and at a fraction of the cost.
K&K Electric has told swain that system could be installed on the band offices for $3,600 — a significantly more affordable price than the option being investigated by the district.
“We can’t afford $80,000,” said Swain. “It’ll be a start, it’s some kind of warning.”
He explained the alarms would be installed on the offices, facing two directions to give maximum scope. Once a warning is issued he or another representative would go to the office and turn a key, signaling the alarm to inform residents to head to the evacuation centre.
The alarm has a decibel level equivalent to a power saw, although the distance that the sound carries will be somewhat weather dependent. Regardless, the siren is expected to be loud enough to rouse nearby residents and trigger the evacuation.
Swain got approval to move forward with the plan after a meeting of the emergency planning committee last week, and is currently exploring funding options. Early indicators are that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada seems to be the most likely avenue to secure the capital.
There is no clear timeframe for the installation yet, but Swain was looking to have the sirens in place in the “near future.”
Once installed, a public test of the system will follow.
Last year’s warnings brought a number of issues to the attention of councillors and significant changes have been made to response management in the region.
As part of these changes the District of Port Hardy created an updated tsunami preparedness pamphlet which includes information on evacuation centres and emergency planning. This brochure is currently being delivered to residents, and a digital version, along with other resources, can be found online at porthardy.ca/your-municipal-hall/emergency-preparedness.