Tsunami siren testing for Port Renfrew and Pacheedaht First Nation


WATCH: Testing is underway for the new tsunami warning alarm system in Port Renfew and the Pacheedaht First Nation. The system, worth half a million dollars, will be fully operational by Sunday. Luisa Alvarez reports. 

Living so close to the ocean may be beautiful and serene, but for Port Renfrew and Pacheedaht First Nation who sit just a few feet above sea level it means the possibility of a tsunami wiping out their entire community.

“If we do have a tsunami it will wipe out this place,” said Pacheedaht first nation resident Carlson Charlie.

One resident in Port Renfrew and on the first nation live with every day.

“People need to take this very seriously because they say we are going to have the big one and I strongly believe that,” said Pacheedaht first nation resident Elizabeth Dick.

While the area is only populated by a small number of people thousands of tourists pass by each year which means the threat affects beyond its residents.

“Worst case scenario there could be a couple of thousand people camping out there and you have an earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone and thirty minutes later you don’t have two thousand people anymore,” said CRD regional director for the Juan de Fuca electoral area, Mike Hicks.

Plans and evacuation routes are in place if there is ever a real tsunami threat. Charlie says their muster point is to meet at the school which is well above sea level and if the road on the first nation is blocked they have to climb up toward their water systems which takes twenty minutes.

Which is why he says the key is having enough time.

The town of Port Renfrew already had a Tsunami siren system but the old one was falling apart and Port Renfrew resident Eric Albert says they weren’t loud enough.

“We lay right in tsunami territory in beach camp over there and the old sirens you couldn’t hear from other parts of town,” said Albert.

Hoping to fix that issue the town upgraded to new state of the art Tsunami sirens, which were developed by the University of British Columbia and worth half a million dollars.

“It can be set off from a laptop in Vancouver it can be set off by our fire chief in Port Renfrew or it can be done totally remotely from anywhere so it?s really high tech,” said Hicks.

They have been installed a few months ago before January’s Tsunami scare, but they weren’t fully operational at the time ? which is why they did not go off.

The CRD said in a media release Thursday that this week’s testing, including the testing for the system at Jordan Beach, is “in anticipation of the systems going fully operational in 2018.”

The system will be undergoing intermittent testing until Sunday when they will be set off at full volume for the final test.


Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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