B.C.s emergency management program may need to improve its response time when informing the public about natural disasters and potential threats to the public, officials said Monday.
The province took criticism for its response to the weekends tsunami threat, which was triggered by a massive earthquake in the coastal waters near Haida Gwaii.
Officials from several communities in Haida Gwaii said they enacted their own evacuation plans nearly an hour before they heard form Emergency Management B.C., which is responsible for issuing warnings during emergencies.
The general public tried getting information from EMBC through a variety of sources, but no official word came until about 9 p.m., an hour after the quake hit and the first of the waves passed many communities.
Chris Duffy, EMBC executive director of emergency co-ordination, said he is happy with his staffs response time but there may be ways to get information out faster.
Well look for ways to improve our process, he said.
The provinces emergency response management system received its notice from the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre just after 8 p.m. Saturday. EMBC had its operations centre up and running within minutes, according to government officials.
Within 11 minutes, staff had notifications out to police, emergency health services, regional staff and federal agencies such as Public Safety Canada, said Duffy.
Communities such as Tofino also receive notices directly from the tsunami warning centres. Officials in those communities threatened by a possible tsunami should have immediately implemented their emergency plans as soon as they received notice, according to Duffy.
Theyre receiving the information the same time we are, he said. Thats when the emergency response plans for a tsunami comes off the shelf.
Duffy said communities closer to the earthquake were put in higher priority, but emergency responders in the Village of Masset on Haida Gwaii did not hear from the provinces emergency response management system until nearly an hour after the quake.
They asked us to initiate our emergency plan, said Mayor Andrew Merilees.
By that time, however, the 1,000 or so residents of the fishing village had already started making their way to the evacuation site about 10 kilometres south of the community.
Police and firefighters were the last to leave, following the long string of tail lights that drove up the hill approximately 70 metres above sea level.
I dont think there was a single car left at that point, Merilees said.
He says the provincial governments response needs to improve, but recognizes that his community and others in the Queen Charlotte Islands need to take responsibility for their own responses.
Ideally, it would be great if the province is in touch in minutes, but it takes some time, so 45 minutes is not a bad turnaround, Merilees said. The important time, in my opinion, is in the months and years before an event and in that sense, the province has done an adequate job in getting (communities) prepared.
Tofino sounded sirens from its newly installed tsunami warning system, sending residents and tourists for high ground. Mayor Perry Schmunk said EMBC took an hour to get information to his emergency responders as well.
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