During a regional emergency preparedness meeting held following the earthquake off Haida Gwaii and resulting tsunami warning last October, Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham empasized the need for the District to prepare itself for the next such emergency.
“We’re here, and it’s coming,” she said. “We may not have another one for 60 years, or we may have one in 60 minutes. We just don’t know.”
Well, now we do know. And last weekend’s quake and tsunami alert originating off the coast of Alaska was a lot closer to that 60 minute figure than the 60 year one.
Since the October wake-up call, the District has taken a proactive approach to its own emergency readiness. A freshly updated brochure with evacuation routes and emergency centres has been designed and was printed in the days before the most recent quake. Port Hardy Fire Rescue volunteers quickly mustered and returned to low-lying areas to begin an evacuation before the alert was called off.
But, as was the case in the October quake, the provincial emergency system was behind the times, and it was nearly an hour before it notified local emergency coordinators of the alert.
The District is looking into the viability of sirens, like those in place in Port Alberni and Tofino. A full set of emergency sirens for Tsulquate, Port Hardy, Storeys Beach and Fort Rupert could run to a couple hundred thousand dollars.
The trick, as always, will be locating those dollars. And we probably don’t have 60 years to find them.