During the early hours of Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Colwood Fire and Emergency Planning staff were alerted that a Tsunami Warning was in effect after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck 278 kilometers off the coast of Alaska.
Colwood's Fire Chief, John Cassidy, received notice of the earthquake and potential tsunami from Emergency Management BC (EMBC) at just before 2 am. He and the Emergency Planning Coordinator immediately began carrying out planned emergency procedures protocol.
Staff, volunteers and other agencies such as the Department of National Defence and Royal Roads University were alerted so that they could enact their emergency protocols. It was determined that residences within 4 meters of Esquimalt Lagoon - those within the CRD 'Evacuation Zone' - should be evacuated. An evacuation centre was set up at Juan de Fuca Seniors Centre, and West Shore RCMP and Colwood Fire were dispatched to knock on doors in the affected area. West Shore RCMP also cleared parked cars from the lagoon area and Colwood Public Works blocked Ocean Boulevard at Fort Rodd Hill to prevent people from entering the area.
An Emergency Notification was posted on the City website and shared widely through social media and media partners.The Colwood Emergency Operations Centre managed a significant number of inquiries from concerned citizens, and corrected misinformation on social media.
At approximately 4:45 am EMBC cancelled the tsunami warning, and communications were updated once again. The Emergency Operations Centre and Evacuation Centre were closed shortly after that time.
Frequently Asked Questions
How high would a tsunami reach in Colwood?
The tsunami threat at Esquimalt Lagoon is a maximum wave of 3.5 meters, according to CRD modelling of potential tsunami inundation limits, including wave run-up. Tsunami evacuation warnings were provided in person to homes within 4 meters of the lagoon shoreline following this morning's earthquake in Alaska. (See detailed maps below.)
Why doesn't Colwood have an alert system similar to Victoria's?
The City will be exploring options for the most effective alert system. It is important to note that even with an alert system in place, it won't reach people who have not registered, have their phones off or are in remote areas with no service.
Are warning sirens being considered?
There is no plan to install warning sirens at this time. Events like today's tsunami warning provide valuable opportunities to test emergency protocols and may create the impetus to explore additional warning systems at the provincial, regional or local level.
Where can I go for more information about tsunamis?
- National Tsunami Warning Centre
- Emergency Info BC
- Prepared BC - Tsunamis: Know the Risks
- CRD Tsunamis