Tsunami Preparedness

Tsunamis are rare but dangerous events.

A tsunami is caused by a major earthquake and consists of a series of waves that may last for hours. The first wave is often not the largest and each wave may be separated by 30 to 60 minutes or more.

Our greatest chance of a damaging tsunami will follow a major earthquake occurring in what's known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which is located about 100 kilometres off Vancouver Island. A strong earthquake in the Victoria area may also generate a local tsunami.

What to Know - And Do

Felt Earthquake
When an earthquake lasts for 60 seconds or more, or is so strong that it is difficult for you to stand -- Drop, Cover and Hold On until the shaking stops, then move away from beaches and low-lying areas to higher ground immediately.  Return only after local emergency officials advise that it is safe to do so. Monitor local media for updates.
DO NOT wait for officials to tell you to evacuate. The strong earthquake is your signal to move to higher ground immediately. From the time the earthquake occurs, you have approximately 75 minutes to move away from the ocean.

Distant Earthquake

Tsunamis originating some distance away in the Pacific Ocean may not be preceded by a "felt earthquake" in Victoria.

When notification of a "distant tsunami" is issued, local emergency officials have several hours to notify citizens located close to beaches and low-lying areas to move to higher ground. In Victoria, tsunami waves caused by distant earthquakes may impact the same beaches, shorelines and coastal properties that are regularly affected by serious winter storms.

Other Signs of a Tsunami

Other signs of a tsunami may include the ocean receding, a sudden rise or fall in sea level, or a roaring sound coming from the ocean. Evacuate to higher ground immediately if you experience any of these signs.

Tsunami Notifications

Tsunami notifications that could be issued in Victoria include:
  • Tsunami Warning - There is an imminent threat of a tsunami or confirmation that a tsunami wave has been generated for Victoria. This is the highest and most serious level of tsunami notification.

    What to do? Those residing in low-lying coastal areas are to move to higher ground immediately and take their emergency kit with them.

  • Tsunami Advisory - There is an expectation of strong currents and/or low amplitude wave activity in Victoria.

    What to do? Stay off local beaches, marinas and harbours.

  • Tsunami Watch - An early alert that is based on the analysis of an event. It may be cancelled or upgraded to a warning or an advisory.

    What to do? Those residing in low-lying coastal areas should be prepared to move to higher ground in the event the tsunami watch is upgraded to an advisory or warning.
For a map of areas at risk of a tsunami in Greater Victoria, click here [PDF - 2.3 MB].

Be Tsunami Smart

Emergency Management BC has some helpful tips on how to "Be Tsunami Smart". 

Tsunami Alerts and Updates

For the latest information on an earthquake or tsunami in BC, follow Emergency Management BC on Twitter @EmergencyInfoBC for emergency alerts and updates.
In the event of a tsunami notification, information will be posted on the City of Victoria's homepage, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @CityofVictoria.
The public is advised to monitor local media outlets for emergency updates.