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B.C. turns to social media for tsunami warnings

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake that struck off British Columbia's Haida Gwaii islands two weeks ago left some in the province grumbling that officials were slow to notify coastal residents of the potential for tsunamis. On Monday, the B.C. government announced an expanded tsunami alert system utilizing Twitter and a mobile website, reports the Vancouver Sun.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond and Emergency Management B.C. director of operations Chris Duffy announced Monday a secondary warning system will now accompany the existing Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS), which uses phone, fax and email, following a review of existing procedures. Under the current system, seismic activity is detected by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre, which automatically sends out an alert to the public and first responders if the event poses a tsunami risk.

Under the new protocol, that tsunami warning will be doubled via another, separate email from the Emergency Management B.C. to a "priority distribution list" including local authorities, first responders like RCMP and ambulance, regional coordination centres and major media outlets to help spread the message the public should take shelter or seek higher ground.

At the same time, the office's official Twitter account,@ EmergencyInfoBC, and website, including a new mobile site, will immediately be updated with current information. An interactive map of tsunami warning zones is also in the works, along with audio clips available through the website Soundcloud.

No serious damage was reported after the Nov. 2 quake. Read more: B.C. taps into social media for tsunami warnings