Knowing the types of hazards that could occur is an important first step to ensuring that you are prepared for any emergency.
Check out the information and resources below on potential hazards in the City of Victoria.
Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. The City has response plans to reduce impacts and mitigate risks associated with these weather events.
Prepare and Stay Safe in Winter Weather
Snow, ice and freezing temperatures may increase your risk of illness or injury when outdoors and can lead to hypothermia or frostbite. People at higher risk during winter weather include:
- older adults (65 years or older) and children under one-year-old
- people with disabilities
- people with preexisting illnesses or taking certain medication
- people experiencing homelessness
- outdoor workers
- people living in housing with no heat or power
The best way to stay safe in the winter is to reduce your exposure to cold outdoor weather and keep yourself warm and dry. To stay safe while staying warm, use heating appliances and candles carefully and take steps to prevent electrical fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Preventing Electrical Fires Carbon Monoxide Safety
An emergency kit will ensure that you have critical supplies on hand in case of an emergency.
Warming Centres and Shelters
The City is committed to ensuring that all residents have a safe place to come inside during cold weather months and other extreme weather events. There are various types of shelters in Victoria. For up-to-date information on shelters and extreme weather response spaces, see BC211.
Intense precipitation events are becoming more common. Large amounts of rain can saturate soils, increase groundwater and flood neighbourhoods in and around Victoria.
Drainage crews work hard to maintain 5,700 of the City’s storm drains, but with thousands of drains spread across Victoria, the City needs your help to prevent flooding in your neighbourhood and on your property.
Power outages because of extreme weather or emergency situations can happen at any time. BC Hydro has several resources to help you prepare and stay safe during an outage.
If an outage in your area is not listed, call BC Hydro at 1.800.BCHYDRO (1.800.224.9376) or *HYDRO (*49376) on your mobile.
As summers continue to get hotter due to climate change, extremely hot days are becoming more common. There are things you can do to stay cool and reduce the impacts of extreme heat [PDF/182KB].
Cooling Centres and Misting Stations
If an Extreme Heat Emergency is declared, the City will activate its Heat Response Plan. City-run cooling centres will be opened, if required. These centres will be air-conditioned, indoor spaces for the public when outdoor or indoor temperatures at home become dangerous. Locations of heat-related resources will be communicated on social media and through Vic-Alert.
In addition, there are 13 outdoor misting/water bottle filling stations available during the summer and portable drinking fountains at locations throughout the city.
Preparing for Extreme Heat
PreparedBC has created an Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide to help individuals, families and communities get prepared.
Heat Warnings and Extreme Heat Emergencies
Weather-based alerts are issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada. A Heat Warning will be declared when daytime high temperatures are forecast to reach at least 29 degrees Celsius and nighttime lows are not falling below 16 degrees. An extreme heat emergency will be issued when Heat Warning criteria are expected to last for three or more days, with temperatures increasing during that period.
PreparedBC has tips for preparing for extreme heat, and local health organizations have a pamphlet with information about heat safety.
Heat related illness can lead to a medical emergency. HealthLink BC provides information on heat-related illnesses.
Pets are at risk of injury and heat-related health problems during warm months. The BC SPCA has information on how to keep your pets safe in the heat.
Although tsunamis are rare, it is important to understand the potential impact of tsunamis and what to do if one occurs. A tsunami consists of a series of unusually large waves formed by a large-scale disturbance in the water. One of the primary causes of tsunamis is an earthquake, but they may also be triggered by landslides, volcanoes, or explosions.
Tsunami notifications, such as those issued by Vic-Alert, are issued using four levels:
- Information Statement — No threat or very distant event and threat not determined.
- Watch — Distant tsunami possible. Stay tuned for information and be prepared to act.
- Advisory — Strong currents and waves dangerous to those in or very near the water. Stay out of water, and away from beaches and waterways.
- Warning — Dangerous coastal flooding and powerful current possible. Move to high ground or inland.
Although we may receive a tsunami alert from a faraway earthquake, the risk of experiencing a tsunami from a faraway earthquake is extremely low. The main risk of a tsunami in Victoria is from a felt earthquake.
Do not wait for a tsunami warning to act. The shaking is your warning that a tsunami may be coming. If you feel strong shaking from an earthquake:
- drop, cover and hold on
- count to 60 after the shaking has stopped
- move to higher ground (tsunami safe zone) by foot or bicycle if you are in a tsunami hazard zone
The City has a brochure with information on what to do before, during and after a tsunami:
It is important to know if the areas that you frequent are in a tsunami hazard zone before a tsunami hits. The City and the CRD have developed interactive tsunami maps to help you identify tsunami hazard zones.
For additional tsunami information, download the Earthquake and Tsunami guide from PreparedBC or visit the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) website.
Southwestern British Columbia is one of the most seismically active regions in Canada. There is a 1 in 3 chance of us experiencing a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years in Victoria.
There are many different scenarios that can cause earthquakes in our region. The types of identified earthquakes scenarios that pose a risk in our area are a Cascadia subduction zone megathrust earthquake, shallow crustal earthquakes, and deep intra-slab earthquakes.
Cascadia Subduction Zone megathrust earthquake (the big one)
The Cascadia Subduction Zone, spans ~1000kms from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. The Juan de Fuca plate is moving under the North American Plate at a rate of around 4cm annually.
The last earthquake in this zone, on January 26, 1700, was recorded by First Nations historical accounts and geological records, telling us that it was massive and caused a tsunami that impacted coastlines as far away as Japan.
Shallow Crustal earthquake
These earthquakes are more frequent, can cause damage, shallow crustal earthquakes are near the surface and do not occur on plate boundaries. The closer an earthquake is to the surface, the strong the shaking will be. These earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks.
These earthquakes, such as the damaging 1946 Vancouver Island earthquake, pose a risk to our region.
Deep Intraslab earthquake
Juan de Fuca subduction quakes occur in a band stretching from mid-Georgia Strait to southern Puget Sound at depths of 40 to 60 kilometres below the surface. They usually have few or no aftershocks.
In 2001, a M6.8 quake was experienced in Seattle and the Puget Sound area and was felt in both Victoria and Vancouver.
Prepare for an Earthquake
Before the next big earthquake, we recommend these four steps that will make you, your family and/or your workplace better prepared to survive and recover quickly.
Step 1: Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing movable items
Step 2: Plan to be safe by creating your emergency plan and deciding how you will communicate.
Step 3: Organize emergency supplies in convenient locations.
Step 4: Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance coverage.
What To Do During an Earthquake
As soon as you feel the ground shake, immediately Drop, Cover, and Hold On!
- Drop to your hands and knees. If you’re inside, stay inside – don’t run outdoors or to other rooms.
- Cover your head and neck with your arm and take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture. If there is no shelter nearby, crawl to the nearest interior corner or wall while continuing to protect your head and neck.
- Hold on to your shelter, covering your head and neck until the shaking stops.
When the shaking stops…
- Count to 60 before getting up, giving displaced objects a chance to settle.
- Stay calm and move cautiously, checking to unstable objects and other hazards above and around you.
- Do not call 911 to report an earthquake. Only call for serious injuries.
To learn more about how to protect yourself in various settings, visit:
Practise how to drop, cover and hold on at home, at work or at school by participating in the annual ShakeOut earthquake drill, the third Thursday of October.
What To Do After an Earthquake
The moment the ground stops shaking it is important take action quickly and safely. Check for injuries and damages that need immediate attention. Look around your environment to identify any new hazards such as leaking gas lines, damage to the building, water or electric lines, or other things that may be dangerous. First take care of your own situation. Remember your emergency plans. Aftershocks may cause additional damage or items to fall, so get to a safe location. Use your emergency supplies as needed.
If you are near the water and/or in a tsunami hazard area, move to higher ground as soon as you can safely do so. See below section for more details on tsunami.
If your home is unsafe and you have no where else to go and you need to evacuate to a reception centre or group lodging centre, take only your “grab-and-go” bag (page 62) with essentials such as medication, important documents, prescription eye wear, etc. Group lodging sites will have limited space.
If you are trapped by falling items or a collapse, protect your mouth, nose, and eyes from dust. If you are bleeding, put pressure on the wound and elevate the injured part. Signal for help with your emergency whistle, a cell phone, or knock loudly on solid pieces of the building, three times every few minutes. Rescue personnel will be listening for such sounds.
Once you are safe, help others and check for damage. Protect yourself by wearing sturdy shoes and work gloves, to avoid injury from broken glass and debris. Also wear a dust mask and eye protection.
Help the injured. Immediately check to see if anyone is injured, and if you have been trained in first aid, put your skills to use by assisting those in need.
Prevent further injuries or damage. Be prepared for aftershocks and stay away from anything that looks like it may fall.
Fire - If you are trained and have a fire extinguisher handy, put out small fires in your home or neighbourhood immediately. Call for help, but don’t wait for the fire department. Large fires are a sign to evacuate.
Gas Leaks - Shut off the main gas valve only if you suspect a leak because of broken pipes, the odour or sound of leaking natural gas, or you see the meter spinning quickly. Only the gas company can turn the gas back on after they check for leaks, so shut it off only if necessary.
Damaged Electrical Wiring - Shut off power at the main breaker switch if there is any damage to your house wiring. Leave the power off until the damage is repaired.
Broken Lights and Appliances -Unplug these as they could start fires when electricity is restored.
Downed Power Lines - If you see downed power lines, consider them energized and stay well away from them. Keep others away from them also. Never touch downed power lines or any objects in contact with them.
Fallen Items - Beware of items tumbling off shelves when you open the doors of closets and cupboards.
Spills - Use extreme caution. Clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other non-toxic substances. Potentially harmful materials such as bleach, lye, garden chemicals, and gasoline or other petroleum products should be isolated or covered with an absorbent such as dirt or cat litter. When in doubt, leave your home.
Damaged Masonry - Stay away from chimneys and walls made of brick or block. They may be weakened and could topple during aftershocks. Don’t use a fireplace with a damaged chimney. It could start a fire or let poisonous gases into your home.
Let people know you are OK - Phone service may be out or overloaded. When possible, ONLY text or call your out-of-area contact to tell them where you are and your status, then try not to use your phone. This will make sure the network can handle emergency calls.