Do you know what to do if a tsunami hits BC? The province’s annual reminder to be prepared

Tsunami preparedness week is underway in BC, and the province says one of the most crucial things to know in advance is the difference between a watch, an advisory, and a warning.

This year’s push to get people living in coastal communities thinking about what to do, where to go, and how to respond runs from April 10 to 16. The annual awareness-raising initiative after an advisory was issued for swathes of BC’s coast this January following the eruption of an underwater volcano in the South Pacific.

“BC is a seismically active area, and coastal communities are at risk for tsunamis caused by undersea earthquakes or even a volcanic eruption like we saw near the Tonga Islands earlier this year,” said Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness in a statement.

“I encourage everyone on the coast to learn about your local public alerting and to do a high ground hike with your family to learn how to find high ground, which is sometimes only a block or two away.”

The province provides the following breakdown of what different types of alerts mean:

• An information statement is issued when there is no threat or when a very distant event occurs that is good to be aware of.

• A watch is issued when a distant tsunami is possible. People should stay tuned for information and be prepared to act

• An advisory is issued when strong currents and waves may occur that could be dangerous to people close to the water. People should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways

• A warning is issued when dangerous coastal flooding and strong currents are possible. People will be instructed to move to high ground or inland

The province is also reminding people of some steps they can take before any level of alert is issued. These include familiarizing oneself with local evacuation routes and emergency reception centers, and having a grab-and-go kit ready.

Twelve coastal communities are inviting residents to participate in virtual “high ground hikes” to practice navigating evacuation routes and getting to designated “tsunami safe zones”

The last time a tsunami hit BC shores, the province says, was in 1974 following the 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake.

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