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Slow notification, cell phone coverage concerns Sandspit committee
January 14, 2013 2:16 PM
A large number of Sandspit residents evacuated to Hydro hill after the Jan. 5 earthquake and tsunami warning, despite a delay in notification from Emergency Management BC, members of the Moresby Island Management Committee said last week.
However, some residents did not join the evacuation because they didn't feel the earthquake, which occurred at 1 am, and slept right through the emergency warnings and evacuation notice. Others felt slight movement and weren't sure if they should leave, said Carole Bowler, a member of both MIMC and the Sandspit emergency preparedness group.
Sandspit's emergency group met just two days after the quake to discuss the community's response. The emergency group praised the fire department volunteers for directing traffic and helping out, and also brought forward several minor problems and concerns. Besides people sleeping through the quake and others being unsure what to do, the stormy weather at the time blocked the sound of the siren from the airport, the Coast Guard siren and honking car horns. Additionally, cell phone coverage in Sandspit, including at the evacuation site, is limited; Emergency Management BC's notification didn't arrive until after most people had already evacuated; and some vehicles were directed to a different evacuation site where there was no communication.
The emergency group is recommending that Sandspit residents make sure they have a land-line phone, put up wind chimes or other devices inside that will make noise if the house shakes, and listen to radio station CFNR 97.1 rather than CBC for updates after an emergency.
MIMC chair Evan Putterill said he has been researching various ways of sending a mass notification to Sandspit residents in the event of a tsunami warning or other emergency - through radios that turn on automatically if there is an alert, or cell phone alerts, or a telephone messaging system. Siren coverage of the entire community would also be good, he said, although Sandspit will have to find money for sirens or other notification systems.
Committee member Emmy O'Gorman said all these systems would depend on Emergency Management BC issuing the original notification - which it failed to do in a timely way during the past two tsunami warnings.
"I think we have to be realistic, in that they have failed us repeatedly," she said. "We need to look for a system that we control."
Ms O'Gorman suggested a phone tree as a solution that is free and could be done immediately.
The committee voted to request better cell phone coverage throughout Sandspit from Telus, and to ask the regional district to complain to North Coast MLA Gary Coons and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen about the slow notification from Emergency Management BC.

published on January 14, 2013 2:16 PM