Is Alberni truly prepared for an earthquake and tsunami?

As Friday morning dawned, and news of the tragedy in Japan slowly leached into the North American consciousness, it seemed as though Port Alberni emergency service personnel overreacted to the threat of a tsunami advisory.

Emergency procedures were put into action, and both schools and daycares were cancelled for the day.

However, it didn’t take long in this age of social media for shocking video and still images of the tsunami’s devastation to reach us across the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

Towns, villages—even a city the size of Port Alberni—were obliterated as killer waves reached as far as 10 kilometres inland.

The stark reality soon sunk in: here in Port Alberni, where we live at the end of an inlet on a large island, we cannot be complacent about our safety.

Major media from the Lower Mainland were intensely interested in Port Alberni last week because our community has seen first hand what harm a tsunami coming up the Alberni Inlet can do.

In 1964, a 30-foot wall of water entered the inlet near the Broken Group and still carried frightening power as it washed away homes, businesses and vehicles before dissipating far up the Somass River.

Two months ago we participated in the Great Shakeout, a province-wide earthquake drill.

It was a good start, but it underlines an important point: despite the best intentions of our emergency services, despite our tsunami warning system, and the fact that we now have a critical response unit located in our community, we’re not ready if the big one hits.

Every individual in the Alberni Valley must take responsibility and be better prepared.