Sidney, B.C.; During the early hours of Tuesday, January 23, 2018, the Town of Sidney’s Emergency Messaging System (ERMS) and Emergency Operations Procedures were put to the test after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck 278 kilometers off the coast of Alaska. The quake created the possibility of a tsunami along the north pacific coast.
Sidney’s Fire Chief, Brett Mikkelsen, received notice of the earthquake and potential tsunami at 1:52 am. He was onsite at the fire hall by 2:00 am and immediately began carrying out planned emergency procedures protocol. This included communicating with jurisdictions closer to the event as well as other local emergency services, and calling in the emergency crew.
Upon receiving notice from Emergency Management BC (EMBC) that Sidney and the surrounding area was under a tsunami warning, an ERMS message warning was sent out to registered residents at 2:46 am while social media and the Town’s website were also updated with the notice. The Town’s emergency crew managed a significant number of phone calls, walk-in inquiries from concerned citizens, and misinformation on social media. In addition, they prepared for the potential evacuation of live-a-boards at the marinas which proved to be unnecessary after EMBC cancelled the tsunami warning. As a result, an ERMS message was sent out at approximately 4:45 am advising of the cancellation.
Mayor Steve Price commented; “It is a relief that nothing came of this situation, but also reassuring to know that should we be faced with a serious emergency, we are prepared and ready to respond at a moment’s notice. This incident has reinforced the need for our new emergency services building and I look forward to its completion.”
Chief Mikkelsen concludes, “Our actions were measured and I believe balanced precaution versus not inciting panic unnecessarily. A full debrief will be undertaken and we will incorporate lessons learned into our hazard specific response plan.”
If you haven’t already done so, residents can sign up for ERMS through the Town of Sidney’s website. This service ensures you will receive a message by phone, email or text advising of any emergency situations in the area.