Provincial emergency group makes changes

  • Jul. 15, 2013 1:00 p.m.

by Jane Wilson-Emergency Management BC staff were on island last week discussing updates to tsunami warning systems. Maurie Hurst, Emergency Management’s northwest regional manager, along with a seismic specialist, met with local governments and emergency planning volunteers to discuss changes EMBC has made since the October 2012 and January 2013 earthquakes and tsunami warnings. The meetings were Emergency Management BC’s way of showing local government that feedback received after the October event was acted on, and resulted in changes and procedures that were then tested in the January event, Ms Hurst said. “Both earthquake and tsunami events really served as excellent reminders of the importance of preparedness,” said Ms Hurst, “and thankfully there were no injuries reported from either, but after these kinds of events EMBC conducts an internal review of processes, policies and procedures and if needed, we modify, or update.” The main changes were enhancements to the tsunami notification system, she said, to offer greater reach and faster broadcast of initial alerts to the public, local authorities, media and first responders. EMBC has also formalized protocols for its social media unit and updated its internal operational processes. There have been big changes to the way EMBC uses social media as well. One of the changes was EMBC’s twitter site, which is now two different twitter accounts. The first one is solely preparedness information, available at twitter.com/emergencyprepca. The second focuses on management information needed during a response, found at twitter.com/emergencyinfobc, said Ms Hurst, so that users won’t have to sort through other information to find what they need during an emergency. EMBC is also using a blog, Youtube, Pinterest, Flicker, and Sound Cloud. “The public expects EMBC to use social media, so it’s been built right into the notification system,” she said. She said the Twitter sites are great because they’re public and have good information. “It really depends what kind of connectivity happens after the earthquake,” she said. “We’re layering the many ways that we can reach you and trying to tick a number of boxes, so if we can’t get you this way, maybe we’ll get you another way. That’s particularly important for those who don’t feel the quake quite so sharply.” Ms Hurst reminded the public that strong shaking is the warning, and that no one should wait for notification before leaving. “Essentially if you feel strong shaking and you live in a tsunami inundation area, move to higher ground,” she said. “Bring a kit with you, food, water, spare clothes, a blanket, if you are up there for six or eight or 10 hours, make sure you’re comfortable. If it is the tsunami and we see damages, some of us might not have homes to go back to.” Ms Hurst said a tsunami is very unlikely, so people should be prepared, but not panicky.