A four-day exercise responding to a simulated 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island has residents and officials in Port Alberni appraising best practices for when the big one really hits.

The Exercise Coastal Response took place in the Port Alberni Valley from June 7-10 as part of the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan

It involved more than 60 organizations and 600 participants and cost the B.C. government $1.2 million. 

This was Western Canada's first full-scale earthquake and tsunami response exercise, testing agencies in their emergency operations, logistics, medical care and communications. 

The Alberni Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, Russell Dyson, was surprised by the authenticity of the drill. 

"It's amazing [...] how real it can get. Yesterday, we had to report to our emergency operations centre the loss of life, and it really did feel real," said Dyson. 

Lessons learned

While Dyson contends the response plan was well executed, he can't stress enough the importance of communication. 

"We take for granted our cell phones, our telephones, and the internet, and all the modes of communications," said Dyson.

"When we are down to the very basics of a ham radio and a satellite phone ... and so many people and so much information is trying to flow through so few channels, you have to think outside the box."

Officials discuss emergency response

Officials discuss emergency response to simulated earthquake and tsunami on Vancouver Island. (Kirsten Jasper/Facebook)

Always be prepared

Being prepared is another key finding for Dyson, who says "we need to be able to rely on ourselves and our neighbours for events like this."

He's optimistic that the experiences gained in the community of Port Alberni can be shared with the rest of the province, and help ameliorate any future disasters.

With files from On the Island