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City of Victoria chooses not to send Vic-Alert surrounding BC ShakeOut

In the event of a real earthquake no alert will be sent

Thousands of people participated in the BC ShakeOut yesterday by dropping, covering and holding on. No one in Victoria reached for their phones, however, because no alerts were sent.

The Vic-Alert system launched in the spring of 2017 and grew in popularity after an earthquake off the coast of Alaska prompted an early morning tsunami alert in January 2018.

READ MORE: ‘This is not a drill:’ test tsunami alarm sparks panic at elementary school

On Thursday morning residents of some Island municipalities did receive a test alert for the BC ShakeOut, including Nanaimo.

A test alert was sent out from Nanaimo to some residents for the BC Shakeout (Paul Bucci/News Staff)

However the City of Victoria decided it wouldn’t be a practical time to use the alert.

“We didn’t use ShakeOut as a time to test the notification system, we have done testing of it at other times,” said Bill Eisenhauer, head of engagement at the City of Victoria in an email, adding that education campaigns had been rolled out before the event.

“During an actual earthquake event, people would not get a Vic-Alert informing them to Drop, Cover and Hold On – it would be used to provide other information after an earthquake event. It is not expected that we would get advance warning of an earthquake to issue a pre-alert”

READ MORE: Victoria elementary students shake it out for earthquake preparedness

That might change in the future. As a part of the provincial Shakeout event, a newly-installed early warning system that could give people between 20 seconds and two minutes warning of an earthquake was tested in Vancouver.

The warning sensors, developed by Ocean Networks Canada, are placed along the Cascadia subduction zone, where most quakes happen, and will be able to estimate location and magnitude of a megathrust earthquake.

READ MORE: Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The unfinished system was put to the test Thursday morning in a simulation on the 19-kilometre Canada Line stretch of the SkyTrain system in Vancouver, giving transit operators a chance to slow down trains and hold them at stations.

“Ocean Networks Canada’s earthquake early-warning technology promises a new era of earthquake preparedness that will enhance the safety of both riders and workers on the Canada Line,” said Ron Powell, Canada Line general manager.

The early warning system will be fully operational by next March, which holds the potential to change future earthquake alerts across the region.

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