Get Prepared for a Tsunami in British Columbia

An illustration of a tsunami

Tsunamis are a series of waves most often generated by a major earthquake beneath the ocean floor. The time between waves can range from minutes to hours, and in height from a few centimetres to several metres. The waves travel about 800 kilometres per hour, but start to slow in shallower, coastal waters where their heights increase dramatically.

Tsunamis can be devastating, but you can stay safe by recognizing the signs and getting to high ground quickly. Download the PreparedBC: Earthquake and Tsunami Guide (PDF, 1.52MB) and start getting prepared today.

Earthquake and Tsunami Guide (PDF 1.5MB)  

What to do Before a Tsunami

Tsunami Zones

Zone A (PDF, 2.36MB)

  • The north coast and Haida Gwaii.

Zone B (PDF, 3.42MB)

  • The central coast and northeast Vancouver Island coast including Kitimat, Bella Coola, and Port Hardy.

Zone C (PDF, 2.72MB)

  • The outer west coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew.

Zone D (PDF, 73KB)

  • The Juan de Fuca straight from Jordan River to Greater Victoria including the Saanich Peninsula.

Zone E (PDF, 2.57MB)

  • The Straight of Georgia including the Gulf Islands.
  • Greater Vancouver and Johnstone Strait.

What to do During a Tsunami

  • Earthquakes are the most common precursor to a tsunami.
  • If you feel strong shaking, drop, cover and hold on.
  • Once the shaking has stopped, move to higher ground or, in some communities, a pre-identified safe area.
  • Follow all instructions from local officials.
  • Tsunami waves can last several hours, so stay on higher ground until you receive the “all clear” message from your local authority.
  • Never go to the beach to watch the waves. A tsunami can move faster than you can run.

If you feel shaking near the coast: drop, cover and hold on, move to higher ground, and stay there until you hear an 'all clear' message

How Will I Know a Tsunami is Coming?

  • Your local authority will provide instructions in the event of an incoming tsunami. Make sure you are aware of the public information channels it will use (TV, radio, social media etc.).
  • Provincial public safety information will be distributed via the EmergencyInfoBC website and its companion Twitter feed, @EmergencyInfoBC.
  • You can also follow the National Tsunami Warning Center, Natural Resources Canada and  the US Geological Survey on Twitter (@NWS_NTWC), @CANADAquakes @USGSted).

Types of Tsunami Alerts​

WARNING Flood wave possible Full evacuation suggested
ADVISORY Strong currents likely Stay away from the shore
WATCH Danger level not yet known Stay alert for more information 
INFORMATION STATEMENT Minor waves at most No action suggested
CANCELLATION Tidal gauges show no wave activity Confirm safety of local areas