If you feel an earthquake, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Then immediately move to the identified high ground areas. (Westerly File photo)

Tsunami waves, earthquakes and COVID-19: What if the worst ‘worst’ case scenario hits the Coast?

“All the basic principles still apply here, in terms of community response.”

News spread quickly in Port Alberni that a potential tsunami warning might hit British Columbia’s west coast following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Russia’s Kuril Islands on March 24.

This presented some people in the city’s tsunami inundation zone with a quandary: “If I’m in self-isolation or quarantine, what do I do?”

With the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) bringing in temporary rules like self-isolating after international travel, or self-quarantining if exhibiting flu-like symptoms, the question was a serious one. The answer is similar to triaging emergencies—deal with the biggest threat first, Port Alberni EOC information manager Karen Freethy said.

“You have to deal with the imminent threat first. That would be the tsunami. It would mean evacuating from your house (if you’re in the inundation zone) because that is the immediate threat, over a potential threat from COVID-19.”

In Port Alberni, the EOC is prepared to open multiple reception centres—the main site is Echo ‘67 Centre on Wallace Street—to aid in social distancing with the number of people expected. Sheltering in a vehicle in the parking lot is acceptable.

“We also know there are a lot of people that would be on foot. We would open reception centres anyway to provide shelter for people coming on foot.”

By 9:10 p.m. Tuesday night Emergency Management B.C. posted on Twitter that the earthquake in Russia posed no threat to the B.C. coast, and there would be no tsunami watch.

Russia’s tsunami scare was also on the minds of west coast residents in Ucluelet, Tofino and Bamfield, who wondered what to do if a tsunami alert had been issued for the Coast.

Ucluelet’s fire chief and emergency services manager Rick Geddes and Tofino’s emergency services co-ordinator Keith Orchiston said the basic principles apply: go to high ground.

“For us in Ucluelet, we would still assemble our EOC Team at the fire hall, go over our evacuation plan, and execute the plan. Our main message for people is to go to our high ground “safe” zones. i.e.: the school fields, Tugwell Field, Amphitrite Point etc.,” said Geddes.

“All the basic principles still apply here, in terms of community response,” Orchiston added. “If you feel an earthquake, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Then immediately move to the identified high ground areas. Once there we would ask that you maintain social distancing protocols. This will look different depending on where you are (top of Industrial Way, Reception Centre, etc.),” said Orchiston, adding the District of Tofino has specific messaging flagged and ready to send out in the event of an “emergency on emergency”.

The big twist, notes fire chief Geddes, is that we now have thrown into the picture social or physical distancing due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“To address that, we would stress to people who are not in the inundation zone, that they should shelter in place. Those within the inundation zone would be advised to continue social distancing practices as best they can. This may mean evacuating, but then sheltering in place in your vehicles,” Geddes said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Tsunami not expected for B.C. after 7.5-magnitude earthquake hits near Russia

READ: 4.8 earthquake shakes Vancouver Island’s west coast (Jan. 24, 2020)

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictCoronavirusPort AlberniTofino,Tsunamiucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scotiabank helps hockey at home

Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Association’s annual donation helps peewee teams

Agricultural Land Commission letter could halt operations at McLean Mill

National historic site near Port Alberni set to host a number of events if COVID-19 doesn’t interrupt

Mural planned for entrance to Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay

Arrowsmith Rotary project falls under the theme ‘building relationships’

City of Port Alberni to review 2020 budget in response to COVID-19

Deadline for final budget adoption is May 15

Alberni school district takes a week off to plan for online education

All buildings and playgrounds in School District 70 closed to the public

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

World COVID-19 update: NATO suspicious of Russian military drills; Cruise ships ordered to stay at sea

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world for Wednesday, April 1

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Most Read