Tsunami warning triggers mass registration for emergency notifications

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, January 30 2018

On Tuesday, Jan. 23 last week, emergency notification systems up and down coastal BC were set off as a tsunami warning went out following an earthquake off the coast of Alaska.

Since Gabriola and the rest of the Salish Sea were not at risk from that particular event, there was no warning sent out over the Emergency Notification System through the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN).

The BC Coastline is divided into five Tsunami Notification Zones. The Regional District of Nanaimo is in Zone E which encompasses the Strait of Georgia. On January 23, while all other coastal zones were receiving tsunami warnings by Emergency Management BC of “Full Evacuation Suggested,” the RDN in Zone E received an information statement from the Provincial Emergency Notification System of “No Action Suggested.”

According to John Wilson, RDN Manager of Emergency services, one side effect of the tsunami warning has been a doubling of the number of people who have now registered for the RDN Emergency Notification System throughout the RDN.

Wilson said there are 1,024 registered numbers from Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy islands).

The RDN as a whole had roughly 4,000 persons registered at the end of last week. 

There had been only 1,293 registered (including Area B) the day before the tsunami warning went out.

Wilson was asked what other emergency notifications could be sent out through that system.

Of mind was when Taylor Bay Road was closed off between McConvey Road and Ivory Way through the night of December 29 due to a tree and power lines down on the road.

Or this past week when Berry Point Road was closed due to the pedestrian being hit by a motor vehicle and the subsequent RCMP analysis of the scene.

Wilson said the system is not intended to be used as a road closure system, but rather for notifications of large-scale emergencies which create imminent danger for people in the community or area.

“If we were using it nonstop, people may not pay attention when it’s a major emergency.”

He added that there is a cost to sending the messages out when it is activated.

Wilson said any of those in charge of local emergency services on Gabriola can activate the system - be it the detachment commander at the Gabriola RCMP, the fire chief at Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department, or the BC Ambulance Service unit chief.

Wilson, or whoever is on duty, gets a page, and the system is then utilized.

“They should have that number. As well, that number sits with the Central Island 911 - whether it is police, fire or ambulance. Whoever needs to contact us, dispatch can give them that number or make the call for them.”

Wilson said Area B is well represented in terms of registrants.

“I would be cautious to say each one of those numbers indicates a household, as people register more than one number - there is room for growth. But the island is pretty well networked. That many people on Gabriola is a good thing. If something were to happen, I’m sure they would be reaching out to people around them.”