Sirens sounded in Alaska and several Vancouver Island communities warning people to get to higher ground after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck off Kodiak, Alaska early Tuesday morning.

Emergency alerts with a tsunami warning were broadcast on local radio stations but many people were sleeping and only learned about the alert hours after it was cancelled.

Some communities like Sidney, North Saanich and Victoria sent out tsunami text and phone alerts.

But you had to have already signed up for the service and live in certain areas to get it.

“We sent it out to specific neighbourhoods that were in the tsunami inundation zone so just the coastal areas. We didn’t send it to all areas of Victoria if some people are wondering why they didn’t get the alert,” said City of Victoria Emergency Program Coordinator Tanya Patterson.

The City of Victoria said they made a mistake by only sending text and email alerts to mobile phones. while voice calls went to landlines for this morning’s alert. The city says in the future, they will send out alerts via text, email and phone calls to all phones assuming it is warranted.

After the early morning scare, the number of subscribers to Vic-Alert jumped from 6,500 to 23,000.

But if your phone is on silent you still won’t get the message leaving many to question why B.C. doesn’t have a system like the United States, where on January 13 a false missile warning was pushed through to everyone’s phones in Hawaii.

The technology allows a shrill signal to alert you even if your phone is switched to silent. Emergency Management BC says the same system is coming soon.

“We will be moving to a wireless public alerting system later this year and of course that will take some time to test and roll out as the alert ready tool did,” Emergency Management BC Executive Director Chris Duffy said.

As of April 2018 you only need to be in a geographic area and have a cell phone to be alerted to potential danger.

“Big expectations around that and I think that will evolve this whole notification process to the next level and that’s pretty exciting,” said Duffy.

But it’s not a perfect system ? the push notification messaging will only work if your cell phone is capable of using LTE and it won’t work in rural or remote areas where there is weak or no cell signal.

April Lawrence