‘It’s rare we get a chance to do a do-over. What a gift we’ve been given.’
West Coast General Hospital site director Pam Rardon phrased it succinctly this week when debriefing following last Tuesday’s very real tsunami warning. The sirens designed to alert people in Port Alberni’s tsunami inundation zone went off in the early-morning hours, setting off panic as people drove up the Hump, evacuated neighbourhoods that are well out of danger, and in some cases, slept right through the whole incident.
The City of Port Alberni has acknowledged that it dropped the ball in failing to use social media to disseminate evacuation information. Emergency planning personnel in both the city and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District are busy trying to figure out what worked and how they can do better if we ever have to go through this again.
Now, it’s up to the rest of us to do some self-evaluation. How many people were caught without emergency ‘go’ bags? How many of us weren’t sure what to do when we heard the sirens? How many who were well out of the inundation zone packed up and left anyway, adding to the traffic? Even those who were affronted that they didn’t hear the sirens at all need to realize that the sirens aren’t designed to reach every single Port Alberni resident with an audible warning.
We are all fortunate that the tsunami predicted after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Alaska did not turn into a repeat of the 1964 tsunami that hit Port Alberni in the early morning hours, causing millions of dollars of damage but no loss of life. We’ve been given a second chance to look at our own emergency plans, and determine what was lacking.
Let’s not waste this opportunity.
— Alberni Valley News