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Japan quake reinforces need to prepare

Similar disaster could happen here

Last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan reinforced to Powell River Regional District emergency program coordinator Ryan Thoms what preparations are needed here.

A magnitude 9.0 quake struck off the coast of Japan Friday, March 11 setting off a tsunami that devastated coastal towns.

At the time of the quake the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami advisory for coastal BC, a status that luckily the centre lifted without any unusual tidal events. Thoms lost some sleep the night the earthquake struck following the advisory and answering calls from concerned residents. The centre did not include Powell River in the advisory as Vancouver Island would take the brunt of the wave in this situation.

Thoms said that people calling him felt a lot of confusion over where to go for information. The best place is local radio, according to Thoms, which will issue local advisories from government and emergency coordinators. Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre’s website is a great source of information for marine warnings, if access to the Internet is available.

A tsunami on the Sunshine Coast is unlikely due to its relative shelter, but should an earthquake occur in the Strait of Georgia then it is possible. The last major quake in the area, in the Comox Valley in 1946, caused two-metre waves to hit the west coast of Texada Island.

“We are basically on the same big fault line and it would be unreasonable to think that this could never happen here. It certainly, unfortunately, will,” said Thoms. “That’s the one thing that we want to get people to think about.”

Preparedness at home and at the workplace is the best tactic for surviving an earthquake, said Thoms. Securing heavy objects, gathering emergency kits and practicing earthquake survival techniques, such as “drop, cover and hold on,” could mean the difference of life or death in the case of an event similar to Japan’s. Immediate emergency response will be limited, especially for Powell River, so residents taking preparedness into their own hands is essential.

“We can’t stop the earthquake,” said Thoms, “but we can at least minimize some of the injuries that might come from it.”