Understanding Tofino's Tsunami Alerts, Notices and Sirens.


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What is a Tsunami?

A tsunami is a natural hazard consisting of a series of long, surge-like waves generated when a large volume of ocean water is rapidly displaced. Most tsunamis are caused by major subduction zone earthquakes, where there is significant displacement of the ocean   floor. Tsunami waves differ from ordinary coastal waves in that the entire column of water from the ocean floor to the surface is affected. Tsunami waves contain considerable energy; they can travel further inland compared to ordinary coastal waves. A tsunami may not look  like a wave at all, but will have very strong currents under its surface.

A tsunami is a series of waves. The first wave to arrive at the coast if often not the largest, and each wave may be seperated by up to an hour or more. Waves may contuine for up to twelve hours, so you must stay away from the shore until local officials tell you it is safe to return.

There are two types of earthquake-generated tsunami: local and distant. A local tsunami is normally associated with a major earthquake, while a distant tsunami is generated far away and you will likely be notified by officials if any actions are necessary.

How Will I Know if a Tsunami is Coming?

Earthquakes are often a precursor to a tsunami. The most dangerous tsunami threat to the BC coast will follow a major, "megathrust" earthquake. Such an earthquake, commonly called “The Big One”, will cause ground shaking lasting three to five minutes. The shaking will be so strong it will be difficult to stand in many places. If you feel strong shaking, drop, cover and hold on. Then move to higher ground or the Community Hall/Emergency Reception Centre if it is safe to do so. STRONG SHAKING IS THE WARNING - Do NOT count on official notices for warning to evacuate.

While a distant tsunami should allow time for an official tsunami message to be given, a local tsunami can reach the shoreline in minutes and may not allow for an official warning to take place. In      this case natural signs, such as the strong shaking from the earthquake, a receding ocean, or a loud roar-like sound, may be     your only warnings to take action.

B.C. receives notification of a potential distant tsunami from the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center. All information is then assessed by federal and provincial emergency officials and technical staff to determine if there is a threat to coastal BC. If a tsunami threat is identified, Emergency Management BC will activate the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS), which notifies local communities and agencies with information on alert levels for the province’s five tsunami zones. Each zone includes all islands and inlets within it.

What zone are you in?

Tofino is in Zone C - beginning at the eastern boundary of Cape Scott Provincial Park on the northern tip of Vancouver Island and running in a south-easterly direction along the outer coast of Vancouver Island to Sombrio Point 


Click Image to Enlarge


Tsunami Sirens

Tsunami Test Sirens - The District of Tofino tests tsunami sirens the first Friday of each month. The test siren will state that it is just a test and play the "Westminster Chime", which is the international "all clear tone" in emergency warning systems.

To hear the "Westminster Chime" click here <audio> 

Tsunami Emergency Siren - A loud wailing tone will be played over the siren and a message stating the level of alert and instructions will be broadcast.

To hear the Emergency Siren click here



Throughout an actual event, the District of Tofino will make every effort to broadcast official tsunami emergency warnings and information by radio, television, telephone, text message, door-to-door contact, social media, weather radios and/or outdoor sirens.

Subscribe to emergency notifications from the District of Tofino at 

Cell service providers require you to agree to receive text messages from One Call Now before you can be contacted using the One Call Now text messaging service.
To make this easy for you, we have created an opt-in text message:
OneCall Members in Tofino using the North American Dialing Plan: Text the word Resume to (937) 240-0720
Please note that you will be charged standard text messaging rates for all text received from One Call Now.

However, in the event of a Local CSZ Earthquake/Tsunami with strong shaking, possibly lasting more than a minute or making it difficult to stand, do NOT count on official notices for warning to evacuate. The earthquake may damage communication systems, and officials may not have enough time to get notice to areas at risk to warn you. STRONG SHAKING IS THE WARNING.


If you are near the coast and feel a major earthquake, possibly lasting more than a minute or making it difficult to stand, you must "Drop, Cover, and Hold On", and then evacuate to higher ground or inland. The first wave from a  earthquake could be in the Tofino area within 20 minutes. Get your Grab-and-Go bag and Emergency Pan if easily accessible and evacuate immediately on foot or by bicycle to an area outside of the tsunami hazard areas (see map below, click image in enlarge).