Haida Gwaii Tsunami Pole Project

March 28, 2019

Haida Gwaii Communities Paint Utility Poles to Direct People to Safety

Media Release

In 2018, as part of Haida Gwaii’s Tsunami Pole Project, utility poles across Haida Gwaii, including communities within the North Coast Regional District (NCRD) electoral areas D and E, were painted with signs to direct residents and visitors of Haida Gwaii to safety in the event of a tsunami. 

“Clear visual markings that can direct people to safe zones may save lives if our community experiences a tsunami” said Barry Pages, Chair of the NCRD, adding “once the shaking from an earthquake stops, everyone should immediately move to high ground and follow the utility poles to safe areas.”

The Tsunami Pole Project aims to reduce the risk of injury and/or fatality in the event of a tsunami by utilizing existing BC Hydro poles to paint visual indicators of inundation zones and safe zones in communities across Haida Gwaii. The painted signage is designed to instruct visitors and residents on where the hazard zones are and where it is safe to go in the event of a tsunami. 

The Tsunami Pole Project is the first of its kind. It is an innovative and collaborative project with involvement from the Province of B.C., BC Hydro, TELUS, local First Nations, and municipal governments on Haida Gwaii. By working in partnership to utilize existing infrastructure and source grant funding for the Tsunami Pole Project, governments are able to provide an added layer of tsunami preparedness at a low cost.

The tsunami poles that were painted in 2018 were identified as part of an overall research study, undertaken in 2017, that included a tsunami hazard analysis and geographic information system (GIS) mapping to identify the hazard and safe zones in each community and outline which poles to paint. 

“We know that a prepared community is a resilient community,” said Evan Putterill, NCRD Electoral Area E Director. “Painting visual markings on utility poles are one way we hope to prepare our community and bring awareness to the tsunami risks that are present.”

In the coming weeks, informational signage will be installed along highways and main arterial roads in communities on Haida Gwaii which will provide further context to the painted poles for visitors. Informational collateral will also be supplied at visitor information centres and other popular tourist locations across the island.

Every April, Tsunami Preparedness Week is a reminder that B.C. is a seismically active province, and that the threat posed from a damaging tsunami constitutes a reality for coastal communities. We hope you will take some time that week to familiarize yourself with your communities’ tsunami pole signage and champion your own personal emergency preparedness plan at home with your families.

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Background

In late 2016, a Master’s student from the Royal Roads University’s Disaster and Emergency Management program was hired to map the poles and develop tsunami signage as visual indicators of inundation and safe zones in communities across Haida Gwaii. In 2018, following approval of elected officials on island, painting of the poles throughout Haida Gwaii communities was completed based on the recommendations of the research report prepared. In April 2019, the project will have reached its completion with the installation of metal informational signage installed along highways and main arterial roads.

Rationale

The Project aims to reduce the risk of injury and/or fatality in the event of a tsunami by utilizing existing infrastructure to paint visual indicators of inundation zones and safe zones in communities across Haida Gwaii. These visual indicators have been painted on BC Hydro utility poles to instruct visitors and residents on where the hazard zones are and where it is safe to go in the event of a tsunami.

The Project is the first of its kind. It is a collaborative project with involvement from the Province of B.C., BC Hydro, TELUS, local First Nations and local governments on Haida Gwaii.

Indonesia has a comparable tsunami awareness project that uses poles to bring awareness to tsunami risk; yet in Indonesia, the poles are meant to be memorial poles whereas Haida Gwaii’s poles will indicate safe and hazard zones. 

The Tsunami Pole Project report provides details of the project including a tsunami hazard and impact analysis for Haida Gwaii, processes involved in the research and development phase of the project, and recommendations for implementation. GIS mapping was completed to map the hazard and safe zones in each community and outline which poles to paint, as well as budgets for communities to implement the project.

Implementation

In 2017, officials approved a change to a much simplified version of tsunami signage to facilitate expedient and efficient implementation. 

  

  • The “Tsunami Danger Zone” is indicated using a 12” blue band with a white arrow pointing in the direction of the safe zone. The white arrow has glass beads embedded for reflectivity. 

  • The “Tsunami Safe Zone” is indicated using a 2” blue band on the bottom and a 10” white band on the top. The white band has glass beads embedded for reflectivity. 

  • The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) sign department developed a graphic for a highway sign which will be placed at the entrance(s) of each community, and at the ferry terminals and airports.

As part of the project, visitor information signs will be placed at each Visitor Information Centre and at all campgrounds on Haida Gwaii. These signs will provide information about the project and what visitors should do if a tsunami evacuation happens while they are visiting Haida Gwaii.