The B.C. government has changed its tsunami-warning system, responding to criticism after last month's earthquake near Haida Gwaii.
Tsunami warnings came nearly an hour after a 7.7-magnitude quake struck at 8: 04 p.m. on Oct. 27, raising questions about the efficiency of B.C.'s emergency-management program.
To improve on that response time, Emergency Management B.C. will send tsunami alerts to emergency responders, local officials and the public almost immediately after getting the call from U.S. organizations, according to an announcement from Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond.
After the Haida Gwaii shaker, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre - the source for B.C. tsunami alerts - sent a message within minutes and was on the phone with Emergency Management B.C. staff immediately.
Despite the emergency agency's slow response, Bond rejected the idea that the province's system failed.
"I view it as a continuous improvement," she said. "None of us think any system is perfect."
The emergency-management program will now send an alert to emergency responders, local authorities and major news media as soon as it receives a call from the Alaska warning centre.
A similar message will go out through the program's social media accounts, such as Twitter, and on its blog, which has been updated to include a new smartphone interface.
"We want to do everything as quickly as possible and as simultaneously as possible," Bond said.
During the initial communication blitz, regular protocol will also be activated, including phone calls to local officials, starting with those in high-risk communities.
Bond did not identify any issues with how the province responded to those high-risk communities, despite several local officials indicating it took too long to hear from the province.
Emergency responders in the Village of Masset heard from Emergency Management B.C. nearly an hour after the quake near Haida Gwaii, according to Mayor Andrew Merilees. By that time, the precautionary evacuation of the fishing village's 1,000 or so residents had already begun.
Bond said the government has been in contact with mayors who expressed concern.
"As we continue with the review, this will be incorporated into further action steps we can take to ensure public safety is protected," she said.
The government is also developing a tsunami warning zone map that will give people an idea of their communities' tsunami risks when an alert is issued.
Information about its rollout will be announced with other changes.
British Columbians can sign up for online alerts by visiting the website EmergencyInfoBC.gov.bc.ca and clicking on the icons under the Connect heading.
Recordings of the latest tsunami warning information will be posted on Emergency Management B.C.'s SoundCloud site: sound cloud.com/bcgov/sets/ emergencyinfobc.
The changes will be tested in the coming month, Bond said.
One early example of how the system will work came just after noon on Monday.
Emergency Management B.C.'s Twitter account @EmergencyInfoBC retweeted a message from the U.S. National Weather Service warning of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake near Alaska.
A tsunami was not expected for B.C., the message said.
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