Canada's first-ever tsunami tower to be built at B.C. school

The country's first tsunami evacuation tower will be able to better protect Masset village in an earthquake.

A high school in Haida Gwaii’s Masset village will soon have an extra defence mechanism to prevent disaster.

What will be a first in Canada, B.C.-based Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay (GTN) Secondary School is planning on erecting a 10-metre tsunami evacuation tower on its site as a way to enhance protection for the community during an earthquake.

The school is situated on Haida Gwaii, located off of the north coast of B.C. -- a high-prone earthquake and tsunami zone. The region runs parallel along the Queen Charlotte Fault line, where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet.

The tower will be a steel structure constructed on school property as part of earthquake safety updates to the school. The site also includes a storage for emergency supplies.


The pillar will offer a significant improvement for evacuating, as the current safe zone is more than 10 kilometres away from the school.

In a news release, Keshia Chutter, a member of the Haida Gwaii School District Parent Advisory Committee, said the tsunami evacuation tower will eventually reduce the time it takes to vacate the school -- from the current 20 minutes or more to as long as it takes to walk across the road.

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"As a mother who has had to evacuate her family multiple times over the past eight years, I can tell you it is frightening and beyond stressful. During an evacuation, time is precious," said Chutter. "All parents, staff and community members can agree that the safety of our children is of the utmost importance. This tsunami evacuation tower will provide a safe location for our children to gather during an evacuation and help ease the minds of many families."

Construction on the tsunami evacuation tower is expected to begin in summer 2021, with a completion goal by fall 2022.

Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary School, British Columbia

Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay (GTN) Secondary School is situated on Haida Gwaii, located off of the north coast of B.C. -- a high-prone earthquake and tsunami zone. Photo: Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary School/Facebook.

The B.C. government will fund $16.5 million towards the seismic upgrades and the tsunami evacuation tower, while the Haida Gwaii education board will contribute $250,000.

"Every family deserves to know their children will be safe at school, especially in coastal, remote communities like Masset," said Jennifer Whiteside, education minister, in the news release.

"Our government's Seismic Mitigation Program is investing in schools and communities throughout our province, and I can't wait to see this one-of-a-kind project completed to protect the health and safety of the school community."

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Sources: B.C. government | CTV News

Thumbnail courtesy of Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary School/Facebook.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published in December 2020.