Tsunami Preparedness - What You Need to Know
A tsunami is a natural hazard, consisting of a series of long, surge-like waves that are usually caused by an underwater earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption.
Is Victoria at risk of a tsunami?
The City of Victoria is not at risk like coastal communities such as Tofino and Ucluelet, which are on the open water and have notification sirens.
Victoria does not expect a large, fast “wave” like we’ve seen in places like Thailand and Japan.
What the tsunami modelling shows for the City of Victoria is a slow water level rise, of approximately 1.5 to 3 metres.
The main tsunami threat to Victoria is from a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island. Tsunami modelling has been completed for our region for the most likely and highest impact scenario, which is a 9.0 magnitude Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
TIP: The shaking from an earthquake is your warning of a local 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.
The projected arrival for a local tsunami at Victoria’s harbour is 76 minutes, with a maximum water level of 2.5 metres (8.2 feet). This estimate is based on a 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. (In contrast, the 2011 Japanese tsunami caused by a 9.0 earthquake had a maximum water level of 40 metres or approximately 131 feet.)
(Tsunami graphic at right, courtesy of Prepared BC.)
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.
Where will you be safe from a tsunami?
You are safe from a tsunami in the Capital Region if you are located four metres (13 feet) above sea level.
TIP: Check the compass on your mobile device or Google Earth to find out your approximate elevation.
Tsunami Hazard Map
It’s important to know if you are located in a tsunami hazard zone so that you can move to a safe area in the event of a tsunami warning.
To see if you live, work or play in a tsunami hazard zone, view the City of Victoria’s interactive Tsunami Hazard Map.
What to do in a Tsunami Warning?
- In the event of a tsunami warning, move to higher ground immediately (on foot or bike if possible) if you are in a low coastal area, beach, marina or harbour, and take your emergency kit with you.
- Do not stay to watch the tsunami waves and do not return until officials say it’s safe to do so. Depending on your location, higher ground may only be a few blocks away.
- If you are not located in a tsunami hazard zone, shelter in place and be prepared to assist family, friends and neighbours in need of shelter. Stay tuned to local media channels for updates.
How will you be notified of a Tsunami Warning?
- If you are near the ocean and feel an earthquake that makes it difficult to stand for 60 seconds or more, drop, cover, and hold on, count to 60 once all shaking has stopped, and then move to higher ground or inland immediately. Do not wait for an official tsunami warning.
- The City of Victoria receives notifications of potential distant tsunamis from the National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC). Vic-Alert, the City’s subscriber-based emergency notification service and the provincial government’s AlertBC system, both send out distant tsunami warnings.
- The City of Victoria has the resources in place to issue tsunami warnings without a siren due to the lower risk, the slow water level rise, and the length of warning time we will receive after an earthquake has occurred. Our emergency responders have the capacity to go door-to-door and use loud speakers to the small areas within the City of Victoria that the tsunami modelling has shown the water level will rise to.
Learn more about tsunami preparedness with this helpful brochure. Check to see if "you're in the zone" and what you can do to be tsunami ready. The brochure includes maps of Victoria's tsunami hazard zones (also available here).
Tsunami notifications that could be issued in Victoria include:
TYPE OF TSUNAMI NOTIFICATION
WHAT TO DO?
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.
Those residing in low-lying coastal areas are to move to higher ground immediately and take their emergency kit with them.
There is an expectation of strong currents and/or low amplitude wave activity in Victoria.
Stay off local beaches, marinas
An early alert that is based on the analysis of an event. It may be cancelled or upgraded to a warning or an advisory.
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.
Emergency Reception Centres and Group Lodging
The City of Victoria will open reception centres and group lodging centres in the event of a major emergency. These centres are intended for people who are forced to evacuate their homes and have no where else to go.
If your home is safe to stay in, you have insurance that will cover your stay at a hotel, or you have family, friends, or neighbours you can stay with, then this should be your first course of action.
If you have none of these systems in place, the City will set up centres in community centres, recreations centres, churches, or schools depending on what is available in our community and the type of incident that has occurred.
Group lodging centres consist of cots and blankets set up in large areas, such as gyms. Reception centres are run by community Emergency Support Service volunteers through the City of Victoria and Canadian Red Cross. These volunteers can help people with their immediate needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, if they have no other means.
We highly recommend that people have insurance and make plans with friends, family, and/or neighbours so they don’t have to resort to staying in group lodging centres. Although the locations of reception and group lodging centres will vary depending on the emergency, above are some locations that may be considered.
Be Tsunami Smart
Emergency Management BC has some helpful tips on how to "Be Tsunami Smart".
For the latest information on an earthquake or tsunami in BC, follow Emergency Management BC on Twitter @EmergencyInfoBC for emergency alerts and updates.
Sign up for Vic-Alert, the City of Victoria's new emergency notification service. Receive alerts and updates by text, phone or email on emergencies that may impact you.
The public is advised to monitor local media outlets for emergency updates.
Everyday readiness for every person, every business, every organization.
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