‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

It was 3 a.m. when Port Edward resident Laurie Proteau woke up to sounds of the tsunami sirens blaring.

The district had activated a local tsunami warning following an 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Alaska – similar to the protocols in several coastal cities across B.C.

Since then, the warning has been cancelled, offering residents across the province the reality of how vulnerable the coast is to these kinds of natural events.

Some residents have praised emergency crews and city officials, describing the subsequent evacuation of surrounding communities as “calm” and “organized” on social media, but others in the tiny community, located 20 kilometres outside of Prince Rupert, said they either didn’t get an alert or had troubles hearing the siren.

Proteau and her husband live on a Trimaran sailboat at Porpoise Harbour.

“We got off the boat and started talking to a few other people who also live on their boats. We had no idea what the siren was,” she said. “After checking our phones, we realized there was a tsunami warning and decided to get off of the floating dock and move to higher ground.”

Proteau said she wasn’t notified by any emergency personnel, “just a loud siren that we didn’t have a clue as to why it was ringing.”

But the pair knew they needed to get away from the water. They could drive to the Port Edward Recreation Centre, which was open for evacuees, but instead decided to join another couple and head to the nearby McDonald’s.

Port Edward’s chief administrative officer, Bob Payette, told Black Press Media emergency crews checked the docks once the evacuation order came down, and waited in the recreation centre until the warning was over.

Said Mayor Dave MacDonald: “The firemen did a good job, gave us a hand to make sure everyone was ok. I think we did everything we should have.”

Residents above the dock couldn’t hear sirens

Dontanya Wolfe said she could barely hear the siren from her home near the centre of town.

“I’m on Pacific Avenue, the same street as the village office, community hall and the school,” Wolfe said. “I stood outside my front door at 4 a.m. and could hear an alarm, but it was very quiet, as if far off in the distance.”

Wolfe said she woke up because of a text message from a friend about the tsunami warning.

“The alarm is on the fire hall,” she said. “Perhaps they should add a second alarm on top of the community centre. If a serious tsunami was to hit us, I would have been still asleep in my bed. The tsunami alarm failed my household.”

Payette said the sirens are positioned to provide maximum impact for those closest to the water and most at risk in a tsunami event.

As for those who weren’t sure what the sirens were for, he said the monthly community newsletter incudes details on what to do when the alarm is sounded.

“After last night, they should know for sure what it’s about,” the CAO said.

Public safety minister says alert system worked well

In the province, there’s a multi-tier protocol for when natural disasters occur.

Emergency Management BC is responsible for activating the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and contacts five provincial regional operations centres. From there, districts and cities each have specific guidelines on how the alarms are sounded in emergency events.

Residents in their cities are urged to sign up for alerts through their municipalities, and once signed up should receive alerts through text message or email.

After Tuesday morning’s warning was cancelled, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a statement all emergency plans worked well.

“Although the tsunami warning was eventually suspended, this event demonstrates that coast warning systems do work,” he said.

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

Just Posted

Photo of Devon Brazeau. (Contributed)
Missing Kelowna man found safe and sound

Devon Brazeau had last been seen on Nov. 20 before being located

McDonald’s at 155 Hollywood Road N in Kelowna. (Contributed)
Rutland McDonald’s reopens after closure due to COVID-19 exposure

The restaurant shut down on Monday for a thorough cleaning and sanitization after a staff member tested positive for the virus

Landmark GRand 10 Cinemas in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
New COVID-19 protocols temporarily close Okanagan theatres

Kelowna Cineplex and Landmark 10 are part of the latest health regulations in limiting events

(City of Kelowna)
Kelowna council quashes welcome sign proposal

Council struck down the proposed sign along Highway 97 after deeming it leaned more artistic than welcoming

This year’s Santa Shuffle and Elf Walk will be virtual. (Santa Shuffle - Facebook)
Annual Santa Shuffle and Elf Walk goes virtual

Participants can walk or run to raise funds between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12

The Animal Food Bank is asking for donations as the pandemic continues and the holidays approach. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Okanagan Animal Food Bank in need of donations as pandemic continues

The Animal Food Bank provides food for any domestic pet in need

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

A colourful inflatable igloo is a new addition to Vernon Winter Carnival 2021, if the multi-day event can proceed amid health regulations. (Vernon Winter Carnival photo)
Vernon Winter Carnival still hoping to light up 2021 amid COVID-19

Event gets support from city in attempts to continue while navigating health regulations

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Product Care offers more than <a href="http://link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com/ls/click?upn=pDYyTceU0YgTDdsd92GohdQJsmSiPFEkcB4MdMM0Qkoqb1aJA-2By5aWklKJXV6QRdyTteNjr2FccUOVLUe4t5Zw-3D-3D1ds-_KVyBcpjXADXifSWVpM8nQcAzSm9-2B6fEFnjVrTsOcu31irDHDxi5k0QTOIWCqMXUxaNbrf0yRzXSSpROCkfx3NkUtbr65Dkcw1J0by-2F-2BDdDiJGbcfhtjHWYSs66NwakeCCLYkj20e9ICIZsLcedqNZKBhsN0sGgBsInpdzsddYikUZkmQvFdxLJhakpgAA6aAJ5ScUoWR6vO9sM819vRB-2F6x7dsdfIaWa4ZgHxR4G7hauxgSJCsNI2bP5J62EFfM0aiDqRPwUPUjt7i5-2FMqpdJxrEBewnLky-2B3lE0JAmi5UsJBkJejuLOjsndZz4b7dNgbvt6KyewKuF0sxU2rpYgkAO9YAKc9STuFJd28Qn7jE0-2FqlB8HKOvpW150NHS-2BOMBcK5rkZ8YAuPqJy11k-2BgndiKB-2FWl2icAfbWtRGJPb8fM-3D" target="_blank">150 free drop-off locations</a> in B.C. (Pixabay.com)
Recycling broken or burnt string lights can reduce holiday landfill waste

In 2019, Product Care Recycling diverted more than 11.6 million light bulbs from landfills

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Vernon Towne Theatre and Galaxy Cinemas are closed under the latest pandemic protocols. (File photo)
COVID-19 closes North Okanagan movie theatres, again

Galaxy Cinemas and Towne Theatre part of latest health regulations in limiting events

Most Read