At 3am on Tuesday morning, Jon McNeil couldn’t sleep. Sitting on the couch, he looked at his phone and saw a coast-wide tsunami warning and immediately woke up his wife, Alex.
“He said it’s not a joke, he had called 9-11 before waking me and they said they were inundated with calls but didn’t have any details. I grabbed the cat, cat carrier and a carton of orange juice. We called all our friends and neighbours who live near the water and got in the car,” says Alex. “We drove to the heli-pad near the golf course and just kept an eye on the updates on our phones. There were moments where we felt ridiculous because everyone’s lights were out and nobody was responding, but ultimately, we thought it was important to respond.”
Alex McNeil says that she has been concerned about earthquack and tsunami preparation ever since moving from Montreal to Vancouver in 1997.
“If anything, this experience showed us how unprepared we are. It took us 10 minutes just to get out the door, and we didn’t even bring water with us,” she says. “That’s unacceptable.”
McNeil adds that as soon as she and Jon got home, they started making lists to improve their preparation.
Bowen Island’s Municipal Emergency Program Co-ordinator, Jen McGowan, says she did not receive any notification until she woke up and the warning had been cancelled.
“Fortunately, it was not serious enough for anyone to call and wake me,” she says. “Tsunamis are absolutely on the list of potential hazards to Bowen Island. Currently, there is nothing specifically about tsunamis in our community’s emergency services plan, but that plan is currently being updated.”