Tsunami Warning – Reflections and FAQs

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In the early morning of January 23rd some Victorians woke up to their cell phone or landline ringing with a VicAlert call, some received a text, some got calls from relatives or friends. And others slept through the whole thing and awoke wondering what they’d missed. I think what all of us felt was a little vulnerable and a little scared, with pictures in our minds of big waves engulfing entire cities.

I awoke from a very early morning phone call from our Acting City Manager letting me know that she had followed the City’s emergency management protocol and set up an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at Fire Hall #1. I hopped out of bed, got dressed and walked the three blocks to the fire hall to join the City’s senior leadership team in the EOC.

In order to be better prepared as a community and to understand the risks that face us, here are some thoughts, reflections and lessons learned. It’s a bit wordy but packed with important details. Please read and please share with your family, friends and neighbours.

What does a Tsunami mean for Victoria?
A tsunami in Victoria is not a big wave. The City has done tsunami modelling and it shows for the City of Victoria it is a slow water level rise, of approximately 1.5 to 3.5 meters. The maximum water level rise is 3.5 metres with a water flow speed of one metre per second. This means that the people who would be affected are those living within a maximum of two blocks of the ocean in low-lying areas pictured on the map above.

In comparison, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan had a maximum water level of 40 metres with a water flow speed of 12 metres per second.

What did the City do in the early morning of January 23rd?
Residents were notified of the warning through a number of channels including an emergency takeover of our website, social media and the VicAlert notification system.

Emergency responders were deployed and had started door-to-door notifications in the potentially affected areas based on our tsunami modeling. Victoria Ready volunteers were setting up a reception centre at the Fairfield Community Centre when we received notice at 4:30am the EOC that the warning – of the tsunami that had been predicted to arrive in Victoria around 5:50am – had been cancelled.

As Connect Rocket, the provider of the City’s VicAlert program put it in a tweet the next day, “Always lessons to be learned but @CityofVictoria got it right opting for targeted notifications. No benefit to anyone if evacuation routes become clogged by unnecessary traffic. These are tough calls and their team nailed this one.”

What is VicAlert and How Does It Work?
VicAlert provides you with important emergency information, such as imminent threats (e.g. severe weather, power outages, tsunami), AMBER alerts, and local incidents that affect specific areas of Victoria. The service enables emergency notices to be disseminated City-wide or to targeted areas, which can be helpful for neighbourhood-specific emergencies such as a gas leak.

When you sign up for VicAlert, you receive emergency updates and helpful instructions where you are, when you need them. You have the option to receive notifications by cell phone, landline, and email. Because emergencies can happen at any time, it’s a good idea to include the phone notification – and list your landline and cell phone numbers. A phone call in the middle of the night may wake you, while a text may not.

During the January 23rd tsunami warning notifications through VicAlert were only sent out to potentially affected areas. If residents selected to be notified only for certain neighbourhoods and didn’t receive a message, they were not in an area notified for evacuation. You can easily change your profile to select all neighbourhoods and receive all alerts in the future.

We are encouraging all residents to sign up for VicAlert in the wake of this warning, and suggest using both mobile and landlines where possible to ensure multiple methods of notification in the event of an emergency. Subscription to this service has increased from 6500 people before the tsunami warning to close to 50,000 people since.

In April 2018 a Province-wide “push” alert system that will automatically get in touch with each cell phone will be put in place by the Province. Here is a CHEK news story about that program.

Where do I go in an emergency?
The City of Victoria has identified potential buildings throughout the City that may be used for reception and group lodging centres. We don’t advertise these, as the locations will vary depending on the situation and suitability.  For example, after an earthquake these buildings will have to undergo damage assessments prior to their use and we do not want residents going to buildings if they’re not safe.  VicAlert, the City’s website, Twitter and local media will broadcast the appropriate locations for people to go depending on the circumstances.

Get a Siren!
On the morning of January 23rd while people were still recovering from panic mode, we heard many cries for the City of Victoria to get a siren. The City of Victoria is not at risk like coastal communities on the open water are such as Tofino and Ucluelet where there are sirens in place.  We do not expect a large fast wave like we’ve seen in places like Thailand and Japan. As noted above, what the Tsunami modelling shows for the City of Victoria is a slow water level rise, of approximately 1.5 to 3.5 meters.

We have the resources in place to issue tsunami warnings without a siren due to the lower risk, the slow water level rise, and the length of warning time we will receive after an earthquake has occurred.  Our emergency responders have the capacity to go door-to-door and use loud speakers in the small areas within the City of Victoria that the tsunami modelling has shown the water level will rise to.

This approach has the benefit of notifying affected residents and businesses with personal instructions rather than a siren that would be heard by thousands of unaffected people and lead to confusion about what to do.

We’re all in this together!
The communities that do best in disasters are ones where people have a sense of connection, belonging and resilience. The false alarm on January 23rd is an invitation for all of us  to learn more about preparedness. It’s also a good opportunity for us to get to know our neighbours better and find out what their needs would be in an emergency. Where are the seniors who may need our help? The parents with young children? The people with limited mobility? Preparing for emergencies before they happen is a good opportunity to build stronger communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do 3 Things for Canada to Celebrate our Country’s Birthday!

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — Imagine if every Canadian did three things for their neighbourhood, their nation, and their world this year. This would equate to more than 100 million acts of community building. To celebrate Canada’s 150th, Canadians are invited to give a gift of three things — three acts of service, large or small, to help their community. The City of Victoria is joining the 3 Things for Canada initiative to mark Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

“We are honoured and excited to be participating in a national campaign that inspires acts of community service to mark Canada’s 150th,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “We invite Victoria citizens to do three things to support or improve their neighbourhood in 2017 and inspire others to do the same.”

3 Things for Canada is a national campaign created by the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee of The City of Calgary after a challenge from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to get all Canadians to become more involved in their communities.

“I am thrilled Victoria is joining us in our birthday gift to the nation,” said Mayor Nenshi. “If everyone just thinks about what they are passionate about and what they can do to help and then does just three acts of service, we can change the world.”

Examples of what people may choose to do include holding a neighbourhood BBQ or block party, getting to know neighbours at a coffee gathering, initiating a little library on a local street, volunteering for a non-profit organization, bringing a hot lunch to a senior in need, and more. Citizens are encouraged to be creative as they do these acts of service for their neighbourhood, their nation, or the world.

In addition to doing three acts of service, citizens are asked to share these good deeds and spread the word, whether it’s posting a photo, video or comment on the 3 Things for Canada Facebook page, using the hashtag #3ThingsforCanada on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or sending a digital postcard to a friend.

In October 2016, Mayor Naheed Nenshi visited Victoria to participate in the Victoria Foundation-led panel discussion Wellness Matters: A Dialogue on Connection, Belonging and the Power of Well-being, moderated by Mayor Helps at the Victoria Conference Centre. At the event, Mayor Nenshi spoke of the success of his 3 Things for Calgary volunteer-based campaign, on which the 3 Things for Canada national initiative is based.

For more information, visit: www.victoria.ca/3thingsforcanada and www.ThreeThingsforCanada.ca

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For More Information:
Mayor Lisa Helps
250.661.2708

Join Us for First Night – Downtown December 31st

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Join Us for Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night, A Family Friendly, Multicultural Celebration at Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2016
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will be the place to be on New Year’s Eve. On Saturday, from 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Victoria’s iconic Inner Harbour will be the backdrop for a family-friendly, multicultural celebration, featuring festive lighting displays, live performances, local food vendors and spectacular fireworks to launch Canada’s 150th in 2017.

“We invite the community to bundle up and join us downtown to enjoy the free family-friendly festivities and ring in Canada’s sesquicentennial together,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Victoria’s Inner Harbour is rich with First Nations history, and with the City of Victoria having declared 2017 a ‘Year of Reconciliation’, it feels right to begin our reconciliation there on the eve of Canada’s 150th.”

The City of Victoria in partnership with the Greater Victoria Spirit Committee is hosting the event, made possible by $224,000 in funding from Canadian Heritage’s Canada 150 Fund. The City of Victoria is one of 19 municipalities across Canada to receive support from the Canada 150 Fund, designed to create opportunities for Canadians to participate in local, regional and national celebrations that contribute to building a sense of pride and attachment to Canada.

“I would like to thank Canadian Heritage and our many sponsors for making Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night possible,” said Alan Lowe, Chair of the Greater Victoria Spirit Committee. “We have an exciting line-up of multicultural festivities planned that end early enough for families to enjoy, while enabling others to visit downtown venues after the fireworks to ring in the New Year.”

Fronting Government Street, the First Night Main Stage will be stepped back from the corner of Belleville and Government Streets, between the Royal BC Museum and the Legislature Building.

Emceed by local radio personality Robyn Burns and Vancouver film producer Bruno Baronet, Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will kick-off with a First Nations Welcome Ceremony and performances by the Lekwungen Dancers and the Esquimalt Singers and Dancers on the First Night Main Stage, followed by École Campus View Elementary School’s children’s choir singing the bilingual version of the Canadian anthem.

The First Night Main Stage will feature a diverse range of regional and local talent. Headlining the First Night celebrations will be Vancouver-based Dear Rouge, the husband and wife Juno winning duo of Drew and Danielle McTaggart. Their song, “I Heard I Had” peaked in the top 10 of the alternative and rock charts in Canada.

Also taking the Main Stage will be BC resident and Cuban-born, Alex Cuba. Harnessing the sugarcane-sweet melodies and pop-soul hooks, Cuba has won multiple awards including two JUNO Awards and a Latin Grammy Award.

Franco-Manitoban band, Jérémie & The Delicious Hounds, from St. Boniface, will also grace the stage. New to the Winnipeg music scene, these dedicated Francophone musicians gather the sounds of their instruments and their eclectic tastes around leader Jérémie Brémault’s smooth, smoky voice, dynamic range, and earnest stage presence. The Hounds have an inclusive style, and the band pools together into a symphony of soul, funk, reggae, and blues-rock.

Creative projections on buildings surrounding the Inner Harbour and lighting displays will provide a welcoming, illuminated event. In addition to the Main Stage performances, family-friendly activities will include Victoria Harbour Ferries performing a special, festively-lit evening ballet in the Inner Harbour, and the trials bike demonstration featuring the Beshano Bike Trials Club. Children will have the opportunity to meet larger-than-life illuminated puppets roaming the festivities. Canada 150 tattoos and flags will also be available.

The community will be able to warm up with a hot drink and enjoy a delicious meal or snack from one of a dozen of Victoria’s most popular food trucks along Belleville and Government Streets. Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will culminate with spectacular fireworks at 9 p.m. set to music over Victoria’s Inner Harbour, timed with fireworks in the nation’s capital viewable on large screens. The event will end at 9:30 p.m.

Transit will run on its usual Saturday schedule on New Year’s Eve, and service will be free after 6 p.m. Additional buses will be added to the regular service to assist those who wish to head home after the firework show.

“The entire Commission and I are happy to support people celebrating the New Year with a free and safe ride home,” said Susan Brice, Chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. “I hope everyone in Victoria has a great time ringing in 2017, and I look forward to another productive year of collaboration in delivering transit solutions for our city.”

VicPD officers and reserves will be greeting the public and ensuring Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night is a family-friendly event that is fun for everyone.

“Our officers will be on site to support a safe, family-friendly kick-off celebration to Canada’s 150th year,” A/Chief Constable Del Manak said. “Our officers are looking forward to this historic event for our community and our country.”

Roads around the Inner Harbour will close at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in preparation for the event to start at 5 p.m.

The public can learn more about what’s planned by visiting the event’s interactive website at Spirit150victoria.ca, the one-stop resource for all Canada 150 events taking place in the Capital Region in 2017. In addition to First Night, 11 days of multicultural programming are planned leading up to Canada’s 150th on Saturday, July 1, 2017.
ATTACHED: Schedule of Events and Road Closure Map

Staying Focused, Or How We Get Things Done

 

This past Thursday, at its Governance and Priorities Committee, Council met to review the City’s strategic priorities for the remainder of the 2013-2015 budget cycle. But it was also an opportunity for councilors to bring forward projects they’d been working on, that didn’t fit easily into our regular meeting business. Marianne Alto put forward a motion which required Council to make a really hard decision. Late Thursday night, as I was reflecting on the decision we’d made that day, it struck me what it takes for a governing body to set a goal and remain focused on that goal until it is achieved.

I don’t think we made a good decision last Thursday. Thankfully, the decision isn’t final until it’s ratified at our formal Council meeting this Thursday February 13th. So I’m taking this opportunity to lay out my thoughts about making a commitment to a goal, comprehensive decision making, and long-term thinking with the hopes that readers, including some of my Council colleagues, might consider this approach.

Here’s the story. (You can also watch the whole thing unfold for yourself here where the meeting is video archived.) Marianne Alto has been working with members of the Vic High Alumni Association who want to undertake a $5 million capital project to refurbish the Vic High track, bleachers, and field. Alto put forward a motion asking for the City to endorse the project in principle, to allocate staff and Council time to work with the school and the alumni association to explore and pursue other partnerships and to make a matching contribution of up to $250,000 in 2015. 

In the hour-long debate that ensued, city staff noted that a significant amount of staff time that would be involved, even just in negotiating a “joint-use agreement” to ensure that the refurbished facility would be open to the public. In addition, the City’s Director of Finance stressed that there was not $250,000 available in the 2015 capital budget and the money would have to come from somewhere. The Director of Finance also warned that even if the City endorsed the project in principle without providing any matching funds, we’d be in a bit of an awkward position when it came to writing letters of support for provincial and federal funding for the Vic High Alumni track refurbishment project.

Here’s the kicker. Last fall Council voted to keep Crystal Pool as a publicly owned and operated facility. This means that in order to refurbish or rebuild Crystal Pool, the City will need to apply for provincial and/or federal infrastructure funding should it become available. This means that the City would be in direct competition with Vic High if federal and/or provincial infrastructure grants for refurbishing or building recreation facilities become available.

After being amended at least four times and watered down to ensure that little staff time was spent on this endeavour, the motion – including a $250,000 matching contribution at some point in the future and support in principle for the project – passed 7 to 2. I voted against it as did Councillor Gudgeon. Most of the people who voted last fall to keep Crystal Pool publicly owned and operated (Fortin, Alto, Isitt, Madoff, Thornton-Joe) voted in favour of the Vic High project.

Here’s my thinking. This was a difficult decision. We want to honour the tireless work of the Vic High Alumni Association volunteers who are undertaking the capital fundraising campaign. And we’d love to have a newly refurbished track facility in Fernwood. I’d certainly like this, I live (literally!) two doors away from the site.

But we passed a motion last fall and made a commitment to the public to keep Crystal Pool publicly owned and operated. I didn’t even support that motion and have clearly articulated a creative hybrid vision for the future of Crystal Pool. But we made a commitment and we have to keep our focus as a Council on the goal of refurbishing or rebuilding a publicly owned and operated swimming pool. With limited infrastructure monies available from senior levels of government, we can’t approve projects that directly compete with each other. We can’t make decisions in silos. In order to get things done we need to be comprehensive in our decision making and keep the big-picture, long-term vision in mind.