Having past experience with tsunamis allowed the district to understand the vulnerabilities and high-risk areas. In the case of a major earthquake, residents and visitors in Tofino could have less than 20 minutes to get to high ground before tsunami impact. Critical infrastructure in the community, such as the hospital, school, and fire department are in the safe zone. However, roughly 70% of Tofino is in the tsunami inundation zone, including the majority of tourist resorts. This underscored the importance of working with Tofino Tourism to ensure providers of accommodation had strong emergency plans and sufficient supplies in the event of an earthquake. The 2012 7.7 magnitude earthquake inspired Tofino to hone its tsunami warning system and increase public awareness programs. It was important to develop a comprehensive Tsunami Warning System that would not cause confusion among residents and citizens. Although there is no direct link between significant earthquakes and climate change, climate change does link to some impacts of earthquakes, especially as related to tsunamis. As sea levels rise, tsunami inundation levels will also rise and that directly affects tsunami planning levels for the community. It is also possible that the region will experience changes in landslide susceptibility linked to climate change (especially in areas where permafrost is changing). This could include earthquake triggered landslides. Given these increasing local risks, it becomes critically important for coastal regions such as Tofino to educate the local population on proper evacuation procedure. Understanding the vulnerable areas and industries within the community was an important first step in allowing the district of Tofino to launch targeted education efforts that increase emergency preparedness.
From 2015 to 2017, the District of Tofino, British Columbia, launched several education initiatives and made technological investments to improve the region’s tsunami preparedness. As climate change contributes to increased extreme weather events, coastal communities such as Tofino are threatened by tsunamis due to their high risk for earthquakes. The 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck British Columbia in 2012 tested Tofino’s tsunami preparedness and spurred adaptation action to improve future responses to such extreme weather events. In 2015, Tofino partnered with Ocean Networks Canada to install a Northern Radar system that detects and measures tsunamis. After establishing a strong centralized warning system, the district began investing in education initiatives to inform citizens of emergency preparedness, food security, and survival skills. Over 500 participants attended seven public engagement events hosted in 2016, and several training exercises were conducted to simulate dangerous earthquake scenarios. The Tofino Walk For Life program introduced an innovative “High Ground Hike” that has participants hike to high ground to raise awareness of tsunami evacuation procedures. Other educational initiatives such as Neighbourhood Preparedness Barbecues are being piloted to further connect citizens with crucial resources and evacuation information. Tofino’s Emergency Program also partnered with Tourism Tofino to establish emergency and evacuation plans for resorts and hotels in Tofino. As a result of Tofino’s proactive preparation efforts, the community is well-prepared for when the next earthquake hits.