Port Hardy seeks tsunami solutions

The District of Port Hardy has completed installation of its first set of tsunami evacuation route signs.

PORT HARDY—Within weeks of distributing the first of its tsunami information brochures and posters, the District of Port Hardy has completed installation of its first set of tsunami evacuation route signs, members of the Emergency Planning Committee were informed Feb. 26 during their monthly meeting at council chambers.

Meanwhile, the District continues to explore options for a tsunami warning siren system and improved early warning communication as part of a revamped emergency plan that followed a pair of tsunami warnings in late 2012.

“The signs are being installed as we speak,” said Jeff Long, director of corporate development services for the district.

Additional brochures were printed after the initial batch was distributed to area homes by Port Hardy Fire Rescue volunteers, and larger posters containing the information have been printed for in hotels, businesses and public areas along the waterfront and other low-lying areas in the downtown core.

The District has further arranged for printing of brightly coloured, 8.5×11-inch placards for homes and automobiles. One side bears the word “HELP” against a red background; the reverse contains “OK” on a green background. Placing the placard in the front window of a home or car windshield can help first responders identify where assistance can best be directed as they traverse neighbourhoods following a disaster.

In addition to highlighting accomplishments, the meeting recognized work that remains on the District’s emergency plan, including establishing a redundant contact tree and effective communicating up-to-date information to the public with the aid of local media.

The District also continues to explore options for a siren or other warning system that would quickly alert residents to move to evacuation centres and spare first responders the duty of rushing into low-lying areas to spread the word door-to-door.

“It kind of flies in the face of logic to send people into the danger zone,” Long said.

Bob Hawkins, the local emergency preparedness co-ordinator, said the District has been in touch with a New Zealand company that makes a warning system that produces a “sonic boom” type sound. The units would cost roughly $15,000 CN, he estimated.

“Have we looked at a supplier in North America,” Brenda McCorquodale asked. “I would think there would be a lot of companies in North America doing it, for tornadoes and that sort of thing.”

Long said K&K Electric has identified a siren that rotates as it broadcasts, though the “Cadillac” version that produces six different tones and up to 10 pre-recorded messages can run upward of $120,000.

“I wonder if any of these companies do site evaluation,” said Brent Borg of Port Hardy Fire Rescue. “Like looking at the topography and contour of the land in this area, to see if it works for us.”

The committee also looked at a variety of sources for instant notification of a tsunami warning, as the B.C. Provincial Emergency Program proved up to an hour behind in its sharing of both 2012 warnings. Members agreed that the Alaska/West Coast Tsunami Warning Centre has proven the most prompt and reliable source.

 

“We’ve found it’s the best (source)” said Long. “Our own provincial PEP has been very slow; it’s very disappointing.”

 

 

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