PORT HARDY—The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Emergency Planning committee unmistakably signalled the start of Emergency Preparedness Week Monday with the blare of its newly installed Whelan Emergency Warning System.
The successful test of the system saw the committee cycle through a range of different alert tones and messages, while a team of surveyors throughout town reported on the effectiveness of each.
“The committee came up with names of people in different areas of the community, as well as a few places of business in town, to give feedback on a survey on how well they heard the various siren tones — as well as whether or not they heard the messages from where they were at,” said Bob Swain, Emergency Planning Coordinator.
While the system is primarily intended to alert residents on Tsulquate Reserve of an impending emergency, the siren proved an effective alert in other parts of town.
“Most heard the siren and messages here on the reserve,” said Swain, “Some heard it in town quite clearly, while others couldn’t hear it unless they were outside. Others contacted us through our Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Emergency Committee Facebook page as well as through texts and emails.”
According to responses, the alert described as ‘Attack’ in the survey was the most effective warning sound.
While this was an successful test of the system, don’t be alarmed — as it were — when it is repeated later this year. “It was a beautiful day to conduct the test, but there will be other times when the weather won’t be so nice,” explained Swain. He and the committee want to conduct tests four times a year in order to factor in different conditions.
The next test is scheduled for October 16 of this year to coincide with ShakeOut BC events.
Swain said that the main function of the system was to serve as a tsunami warning, alerting Tsulquate residents to move to high ground. Approximately 40 of 100 homes on Tsulquate lie in the tsunami zone, he said.
When a major earthquake off Haida Gwaii generated a tsunami warning in October, 2012, Swain said, “Many residents of Tsulquate were advised to go to the Civic Centre — which meant everyone had to go through the tsunami hazard zone here in our community as well as through Port Hardy’s tsunami zone just to get there,” said Swain. “The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Emergency Planning committee have identified Wakas hall as the Reception Centre, and the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw School will be the Emergency Operations Centre. Having our own reception centre and EOC ensures that our community members do not have to go through two zones to get to higher ground.”
For more information — or to get involved with the GNN Emergency Management Committee — contact Swain at 250-230-0087.