Recent earthquake serves as warning

Some tips on what to do if a earthquake happens in Sooke

Did you feel that last earthquake on Wednesday night last week?

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (emsc-csem.org) reported a 6.5 earthquake on northern Vancouver Island last week. Its epicentre was 85 km south-southwest of Port Alice.

Witness accounts on the EMSC detail the shakedown. “Was having a second glass of wine — thought, at first, that I better not have any more,” recorded one witness about 30 km away from the epicentre, “then realized that it was an earthquack [sic] — (better stop the wine) — lasted about ten to fifteen seconds.”

According to EarthquakesCanada.nrcan.gc.ca’s Community Interest Intensity Map, the earthquake was felt, albeit weakly, as far away as Kamloops and Kelowna.

This recent shakeup might have you thinking about your own emergency preparedness. Some of you might be smug in your existing, excellent preparedness; some might be updating your kits; and others might be wondering where to start.

Fire Chief Steve Sorensen provided a few excellent words of wisdom the day after the earthquake.

His first piece of advise was on how to assess the possibility of a tsunami.

“If the ground in Sooke shakes hard enough that you can’t stand up, this is your warning that a tsunami may be coming. Persons should evacuate all low lying areas immediately following the shaking and move to higher ground,” advised Sorensen. He added that the recommended safe-from-tsunami height in Sooke area is four metres above normal sea level.

You can find out the sea level of any particular address using Google Earth (as opposed to Google Maps), a free downloadable application.

“If a major earthquake occurs in the Cascadia Fault (the big one), the wave would be expected to hit Sooke in approximately 55 minutes,” advised Sorensen.

Jeri Grant, the Juan de Fuca (JdF) emergency coordinator, offered up an Earthquake 101. The recent earthquake happened on the Nookta fault zone. This resulted in a side-to-side shifting, which does not cause the land to thrust up. The Nootka fault experiences an earthquake about once in 10 years. The Cascadia fault, which runs from Alaska down to northern California, will result in a “subduction, or mega thrust” quake. If that were to happen, Grant informed us, there would be a substantial quake lasting two to three minutes.

In North America, the response to a quake like this is to “drop, cover and hold, and protect your head and neck,” said Grant. Stay away from windows and doorways.

A quake in the Cascadia Fault can result in a tsunami, confirmed Grant.

As soon as factual information is received by the District, said Sorensen, the Sooke Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will inform residents what to do next, using Internet and Social Networking tools like Twitter. “In the event of a major disaster, the Sooke Community Hall will be opened as an Emergency Reception Centre.”

Sorensen recommends having seven days of emergency supplies on hand. Grant echoed that, saying that number was a minimum recommendation. Ideally, everyone would have a grab-and-go kit, an emergency supply, and a car kit was well.

“A new program entitled 26 Weeks to Emergency Preparedness is also set to be launched at the beginning of May,” said Sorensen. “This will detail how to put together a seven-day emergency kit in 26 steps.”

The May 3 Sooke Rotary Auction will have Sooke Emergency Program volunteers on hand, where additional information and handouts can be obtained. There will also be a display at the very large Annual Emergency Preparedness Week display at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood on May 4. This event runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

In the meanwhile, Sorensen recommends a website called www.prepareyourself.ca, which can help you get prepared for an emergency.

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