Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest editorial by Jacqueline Windh March 18,2011

Hello Ralph and all -

Below is a response to some of the questions by “Anonymous Mar. 17 1:40am” posted as a comment in the previous thread. (And speaking of “anonymous,” I think one step that would help this town is for people to speak out with a face and name).

I have all ready written a huge amount, over a period of several years, about all of this tsunami and earthquake emergency stuff. I have made sure that everything is publicly available. These articles are really time-consuming to research and write, and the many interviews I have done require lots of prep time required before talking live on air. But I think they provide answers to your questions (as well as a whole lot more info). So here's a little reference list for y'all.

Please check out my posts on the Tofino Residents blog (which anyone can feel free to take over if they like, as I've given up on it since everyone seemed to think it was an excuse to tell me what else I should research and write about for free for the community, instead of contributing to it themselves):

There is also my interview on CBC TV's "The National" last year: - scroll down on the "On Shaky Ground" window for Tofino)
And also my CBC Radio interview from last year:

(BTW, the June 23 Tofino Residents post links to the Mayor's infamous "Let them eat farmed fish" interview).

There is also the article I wrote on my own blog: more about the geology and how scientists figured out the things we know about our earthquake and tsunami frequency:

There are also the two very detailed articles I wrote for the communities (I actually convinced the Westcoaster and Westerly to agree to publish the same material for the sake of public safety, which in itself was a feat) back in 2007:

And there is the long interview that I did with Geoff Johnson on Long Beach radio in January 2010, which you can listen to here:
And the one I did on CBC Radio on Monday (my part starts about 7 min; don't know how long this link will be "live" for):

So that's a lot of info I have put out there. (In case anyone is wondering, I don't get paid for this stuff, it was volunteering for the community). So, some brief answers to your specific questions:
- going door to door only works if people actually DO it. Seems the district is saying they did it this time, whereas people I have talked to who live on Chestermans and Sandpiper Drive say they did not. Someone is lying.
- yes, warning sirens can be an issue if the weather is loud, which we know it can be - i.e. whether anyone actually will hear them or not
- the provincial PEP program was expounding on these little receiver things that we could all have in our houses, about 3-4 years ago, that would get rid of any need for outside sirens. They sounded great - like an alarm clock in each house that would go off on some radio signal or something. I do not know what happened to that whole idea. Someone should follow that up. Sounds cheaper and far more effective than sirens or PA addresses.

To me, the two biggest issues are:
- people need to know where the REAL safe areas are. For an earthquake from far away, we will have hours of time. When our own earthquake comes (remember, in that case, the earthquake IS the warning - you need to have your plan burned into your head for that one because you will have as little as 15 minutes before the first wave, and there will be mass destruction everywhere, roads impassable) we need to get to the nearest safe high area, RUNNING, forget about taking much stuff with you, you just need to huddle up and survive for 12 or so hours there. Hungry, cold, whatever... at least you are alive and in a safe place when the first wave comes in. You can be cold and wet and hungry for 12 hours.
- how to survive the weeks and months after the quake/tsunami (look at Christchurch and Japan right now; rebuilding is still on-going in Haiti and Chile a year later). Tofino will literally be an island, bigger towns cities will be receiving the bulk of the aid, not us, and those bigger towns certainly will not be in a position to give us aid (in spite of our Mayor's little fantasy that a ship will arrive from Vancouver within 24 hrs and that we can all survive on the farmed fish even though boats and fish pens will have been destroyed). If it is winter, we will be bloody cold and wet, for weeks. Or months. If it is summer, we will have 20,000 extra mouths to feed. (Who's stockpiling their food?) And think about it: stockpiling weeks of food only works if everyone does it - otherwise, what are you going to do, eat your food and go "ha ha I told you so" as you watch your neighbours starve? (Or beat them off with sticks as they struggle to feed their kids and attack you for your supplies?)

See why I'm not sticking around?

I’m pissed off with a Mayor and council and emergency planners who have dropped the ball on this for the four years that I have been lobbying for the safety of all of you. I have a whack of very polite and professionally worded emails that I have written to them offering my help in the planning (and I have phoned and gone in to talk to Dorothy Ng too, and talked to Crystal Ironside before her), and they have never once responded to me about this. Not even to say piss off and stop writing to us - even that would be better than what I have got.

I am really disappointed in a community that won’t speak out. I am disappointed that no one stood with me (even though so many people have told me privately that they support what I have been doing) - especially when the Mayor slagged me in that CBC interview last year. Sure, people are talking here on this blog - but anonymous comments do not have much sway in policy change. As you can probably tell from the tone of this, I am pretty burnt out after four years of lobbying for sensible emergency planning that might actually save lives (your lives) rather than cost them. I wish I could be one of those people who just doesn’t give a shit, but I’m not. That's why I can’t stick around, because if I stay I will keep wasting my time on this - or on other stupid things like fair water rates, or affordable housing for locals - like I am right now.

But this is why I care:
The events cannot be prevented. But with good planning, thousands or even tens of thousands of deaths can be prevented. Both during the event, and in the weeks and months following. On Friday, nearly 1000 people died in one town in Japan because they followed their municipal emergency instructions, which sent them to designated "safe zones" that were actually within the inundation zones (sound familiar?). They got swamped by the wave, and they drowned inside the buildings. See this article for details:
In that case, the problem seems to be on the geoscientists' end, not the planners - they were preparing for a 3-4 m wave, and instead they got a 15 m wave. Supposedly we are expecting a max 6 m wave here - so 10 m above high tide is considered "safe" by the experts. I am wondering what the chances are of such an error in our predicted height here, too. It would really change the planning, if you are to prepare for a 15 m wave. You guys need some intelligent and informed people on this:(1) to understand the nature of the expected events, and (2) to know what to do to minimize loss of life and injury and damage. The probability of it coming is 100%.

(OK, so while I am putting in my "last words" - I'll add that the plan to have Tofino schoolchildren grab their desk legs and get slammed from wall to wall by a magnitude 9 quake is criminal. This is not a California or NZ magnitude 7 quake, it will be 100 times stronger, so using California or NZ types of planning is not appropriate for us. Also, Maquinna is not a big-city school where exits are far away or down stairs - it is a tiny little one-story school and there are doorways very close to (or in) all of the classrooms. Parents, please instruct your children to run outside the second the shaking starts, no matter what anyone else tells them - the school field will be the safest place in town, practically the only place where nothing can fall on you). Tofino's planning needs to be appropriate to here - not just lifting someone else's plan.

Anyway… maybe some day all the info I have researched and posted will help y'all. I hope so, because it was a hell of a lot of work.

Somebody needs to do something, and everyone should be part of that somebody. Not just one or two people alone.

(And for anyone still questioning my background/expertise: My Ph.D. is in Structural Geology, which is the study of deformation of the Earth's crust, e.g. faulting, folding, fractures, tectonic movements.).


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