Ocean Village Resort employee Eli McDonell displays the megaphone he used to notify guests of the Tsunami Warning. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino resorts discuss Tsunami Warning evacuation

Managers look into getting emergency kits for guests and posting tsunami evacuation routes in rooms.

  • Feb. 2, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Tofino resort managers are calling the Jan.23 early morning Tsunami Warning the “perfect drill.”

Dena Bruno, general manager at Ocean Village Resort, supervised the evacuation of 12 rooms in-house, plus about 15 people living in staff accommodation.

Ocean Village is only 4.5 metres from the high tide line on Mackenzie Beach.

“For me, it felt smooth. As chaotic as it was in my head and my heart, it felt like it actually went smoothly at the resort,” Bruno said. “All staff were together and everyone was helping each other get things going.”

Ocean Village staff member, Eli McDonell, used a megaphone they had stashed in the office to notify their guests about the Tsunami Warning.

“He walked around calmly, letting our guests know that this is emergency and they need to evacuate,” Bruno said, adding that a neighbouring resort heard the voice on the megaphone, too.

It took Ocean Village about 30 minutes to evacuate their guests and staff, according to Bruno.

“It’s not my first rodeo,” said the Tofino resident of 18 years.

“I like to say it gets easier with each one, and the day ones definitely easier but, when you’re woken up at 2 a.m., it’s just a lot different of a feel.”

Ross Mckenzie is one of the new managers at Mackenzie Beach Resort. At high tide, he said some of their cabins might only be two-metres above sea level. This was his first ever tsunami evacuation.

“Luckily we only had two guests staying in one cabin. On the way out, we just banged on their door pretty unapologetically,” he said.

“It was kind of the perfect drill. The fact that it was 2 a.m. was kind of good because that’s almost the worst time of the day for it to happen.”

Since taking on the management role in May 2017, Mckenzie said they have been talking about putting together a tsunami evacuation plan, but hadn’t quite got around to it.

“It almost takes something like that for you to put something together,” he said. “We’re in the process now of putting together [emergency] packs. For every two people there will be a pack in each cabin.”

He is also looking at investing in a megaphone.

Both Bruno and Mckenzie want to post tsunami evacuation routes on the back of doors, adjacent to the fire evacuation route.

“We have to,” said Bruno. “It’s just a reality. It’s not about scaring the guests anymore, it’s about making everyone aware of what they have to do at that moment.”

“It can panic some people, but the vast majority would appreciate the fact that you have informed them. It’s better to be informed than ignorant,” reiterated Mckenzie.

District of Tofino’s emergency program co-ordinator Keith Orchiston said via email that in order to build community resilience, employers should begin by ensuring their staff are personally prepared at home then at work.

“When it comes to making our community, safer, more resilient, and better prepared, we are all in it together. No one person, organization, accommodation provider or business can do it alone. Having accommodation providers prepared with emergency supplies for their guests in the event of an emergency would only help to build on the exceptional community resilience displayed during last week’s tsunami warning,” Orchiston said.

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