The Kitimat Fire Department and the Kitimat Emergency Program are in general happy with the way the Oct. 27 earthquake and tsunami warning was handled, but communication with the public will definitely be a priority as they learn from the event.
Fire Chief Trent Bossence said that an Emergency Operations Centre was immediately established at the fire hall, together with emergency coordinator Bob McLeod, as well as representatives from local industries such as Bechtel and Rio Tinto Alcan.
Phone lines were down for the fire department for approximately half an hour after the earthquake but cell phones still worked allowing the members to be in touch with each other.
Bossence said that, as with many others in the province, information was slow coming from Emergency Management BC, but that they don’t rely entirely on that group to give them information, turning as well to other main sources such as the West Coast And Alaska Tsunami Centre.
“There’s multiple sources we can get information from,” he said.
From information updates through their various channels they were confident that Kitimat had a low-risk of damage, save for areas below tide lines, namely marinas, so people at MK Bay Marina, for instance, were advised to get off their boats.
A lot of information we being shared among emergency responders in various communities. Bossence said he was quickly calling Prince Rupert’s fire chief for information.
Of course all their work didn’t do much to stem the tide of misinformation being transmitted through social media.
“There was a lot of information and misinformation being sent out on social media. It’s unfortunate but it’s also a reality,” said Bossence.
Communication is one of the largest takeaways from the event, and how to recognize the impact of social media.
“I totally understand the frustration of our community and not knowing what’s going on,” he said.
As for the possibility of evacuations, Bossence said the tried-and-true way is to just knock on doors, and driving down streets with megaphones alerting people to the danger.
While social media can be a way to spread information, he said in an evacuation setting it would be challenging as it would take away control.
As for some of the takeaways from this, he said earthquake risks are proven real and it’s important to keep yourself ready.