Grabbing the kids and heading to higher ground was Port Alberni resident Annette Samuel’s first thought after finally hearing the tsunami warning early Tuesday morning.
Samuel, who lives on Gertrude Street, said she couldn’t hear the sirens inside her home. It took her looking out her window and seeing an unusual amount of cars on the street for the early hour to realize something wasn’t right.
“I ran downstairs and opened my sliding door and finally heard something,” Samuel said. “I turned around and woke up my two kids and their dad and said ‘we need to go now,’ so they got dressed and we left.”
Not knowing a designated evacuation spot, Samuel, her husband and two kids, ages seven and 11, began running up Lathom Road in search of a safety zone.
Once at the top of the road, Samuel began thinking of her next move to get her family to a safer place. She noticed vehicles heading towards Walmart and the old Klitsa School. She told her kids, who were crying and tired, that they would go as far as they could.
“We just stood there for a little while and then noticed a truck stopped nearby and a gentleman inside said ‘do you have a place to go?’ I said no we don’t,” Samuel said.
Samuel said the man took her family into his home, gave them a safe place to stay, fed them breakfast and made coffee and tea.
Samuel was relieved to have found a safe place to stay until the tsunami warning was cancelled but she believes there needs to be better public information available in the occurrence of an emergency and that the warning sirens need to be much louder.
“Even when they do the (siren) testing we hardly hear them here with the speaker behind us unless our windows and door is open,” she said.
There are four siren systems in city limits, one on Kingsway Avenue near the train station, one on Fourth Avenue just off Redford Street, one on Margaret Street near the Kitsuksis Dyke pedestrian bridge and one about half way up the hill on Golden Street.
The Hupacasath First Nation also have a siren just off Compton Street and the Tseshaht First Nation have a siren on their land as well.
City CAO Tim Pley said he does sometimes hear from the public that the sirens are too quiet, but he also hears they are too loud.
“We just replaced all the equipment over the last seven years, we did one per year,” Pley said. “They’re all new with their amplifiers and speakers, they are very loud. Not everybody is going to be awoken by these things you just couldn’t do that without being so loud it would hurt people.”
Pley said the practice siren, that sounds on the first Wednesday of every month, and the sirens that sound in an actual emergency are set at the same volume level.
The practice tone is the sound of a digeridoo, while the emergency siren is an actual siren.