An evacuation route sign is shown in Jordan River, B.C., on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Tsunami warning sirens went off in Tofino and other coastal communities on British Columbia’s west coast Tuesday morning after a powerful earthquake struck off Alaska. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Rupert dropping ball on emergency preparedness

In Our Opinion editorial following the tsunami warning on Tuesday, Jan. 23

That’s strike two.

The baseball analogy is distinctly appropriate following another near-disaster early Tuesday morning.

As most of Prince Rupert slept, the National Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami warning at 2:06 a.m. for coastal B.C. after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck 279 kilometres off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska.

The location of the earthquake and the sheer speed of a tsunami meant that Rupert had less than an hour to react.

A warning was issued, but only a very select handful found out about it. The rest of us snored on in ignorant bliss.

READ MORE: Overnight tsunami threat triggered alarm in Port Edward, while much of Prince Rupert slept

Some found out about it when either East Coast relatives time zones away, who were sipping their morning coffee, telephoned in an alarm, or one of their friends or loved ones woke them up after returning home in the middle of the night from evacuated port operations.

But for most of us, we knew and heard nothing.

Up and down the coast, there are reports of people huddled in evacuation centres awaiting the all-clear which came at 4:14 a.m.

But not in Rupert.


When it comes to a tsunami, emergency preparedness is a joke in this community.

Sure, the city was tweeting and cyberspace was abuzz, but for most, 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. is generally a time when most are unplugged and were completely oblivious to a major threat that fortunately did not materialize.

As we opined in 2012, following the massive earthquake off Haida Gwaii: “In cities and towns across Canada, they can warn you when you’re hungry. But in Prince Rupert they can’t even warn you a tsunami may be on its way.

“From Smithers, B.C. to Neepawa, Manitoba, each and every noon hour a siren sounds to tell the townfolk it’s time to drop their hammers, push away their keyboards or hang up their phones and run for the fridge — it’s time for lunch.

“In Prince Rupert, we aren’t even warned it might be time to run for our lives.

“Prince Rupert needs to give its collective head a shake… get a siren. What good is a tsunami warning if nobody hears about it.”

Just more than five years later, again a tsunami warning was issued and very few either heard about it or knew what to do.

Interestingly in a couple of months, MLA Jennifer Rice will celebrate her fifth anniversary as the representative of the North Coast.

Equally interesting, in those five years, no siren for Rupert.

And shockingly, less than a year ago, Ms. Rice was appointed parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness.

Twice Rupert and Rice have had a chance to be prepared in the case of tsunami.

Twice they didn’t even swing … they just stood there looking.

It’s not a matter of if, but when, another earthquake or tsunami will occur.

We cannot afford being caught looking on strike three.

READ MORE: Tsunami warnings are wonderful… if you hear them

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