In the early morning hours of January 23, 2018 a Tsunami warning was issued to the west coast of B.C., including the Township of Esquimalt.
The warning was subsequently cancelled, but the Township took action by alerting residents and setting up a reception centre for potential evacuees before the cancellation.
At that time concerned residents posed a number of questions in relation to the tsunami, and these are answered below.
1. Why wasn’t I notified?
Only residents within the identified tsunami planning areas will be evacuated via door-to-door notification due to a tsunami warning. If you are not in a tsunami planning area you will not be notified.
If you do live in an identified planning area, you weren’t notified because the tsunami warning was cancelled before the evacuation process was completed.
You can find out if your property is located is in a tsunami planning area here.
2. Does Esquimalt have a notification system like Vic Alert?
Some residents received notifications from the City of Victoria because they signed up for Vic Alert. You do not have to be a resident of Victoria to sign up for these notifications, but the messaging is specific to the City of Victoria. Each local authority is responsible for public messaging and instructions may not be the same for each.
Currently Esquimalt does not have a telephone mass notification system. As per our emergency plan, evacuations will be conducted on a door-to-door basis to ensure residents have been notified. However, based on public demand as a result of the January 23, 2018 event, the Township is pursuing a partnership with the City of Victoria and the Vic Alert system.
The Township already partners with the Victoria Police Department in our public messaging and push notifications can be received via their app: https://www.vicpd.ca/mobile
Until further notice, in the event of an emergency, please check the Esquimalt website or social media channels for emergency instructions specific to Esquimalt.
3. Where do I go if I’m evacuated?
You will be directed to a reception centre if you are evacuated and need a safe place to go. The Township will identify the location of the centre based on a number of factors including the type, time, location, and size of the event. The Township has agreements with a number of facilities that may be used for this purpose. We do not have a set “muster point” or “meeting point” because there is a possibility a particular facility may be unsafe or inaccessible following an emergency. Please check our website and social media channels for instruction. Evacuation staff will also provide this information if you are notified.
4. What does it mean to go to “Higher Ground?”
Based on regional modelling, higher ground is considered four metres or 13 feet above sea level in most of the Capital Region. Please review CRD information on this topic: Modelling of Potential Tsunami Inundation Limits and Run-Up Project.
5. Why didn’t I hear the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt sirens?
The sirens are property of the Department of National Defense and the Township has no authority or jurisdiction to activate them. Local authorities received information from Emergency Management BC to begin undertaking evacuations of low lying areas and Esquimalt did so until the warning was cancelled. CFB Esquimalt posted a response to this question on January 23, 2018 via Facebook:
“In close consultation with Emergency Management BC along with data gathered from other sources such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it was assessed that the threat to Victoria was not imminent and that continued monitoring of effects farther north up the coast would give us ample time to sound the alarm if necessary.”
It is important to note that the sirens are intended for base personnel ONLY and not Township residents. They are also used for ANY emergency on the base, not just a tsunami. Therefore, a siren does not mean you need to evacuate, it may mean that you need to shelter in place in your home or it may not impact the Township at all. We do benefit from the sirens by knowing something is happening, but it is important to check what type of emergency is occurring and what actions to take. More information on the sirens can be found here.
6. Where can I go for more information?
Provincial information: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/,
Regional Information: PrepareYourself.ca
Esquimalt information: https://www.esquimalt.ca/
CFB information: http://www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/about/structure-marpac-home.page
Tsunami information: http://ptwc.weather.gov/
Earthquake information: http://www.earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/index-en.php
The Township regularly hosts free information sessions on topics related to emergency preparedness. Learn more about upcoming information sessions here.