B.C. to build Canada's first tsunami evacuation tower on Haida Gwaii to protect students

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      Canada’s first tsunami evacuation tower will be built in B.C. to help provide a safe refuge for students in the event of an emergency. 

      The provincial government announced on December 23 that it will contribute $16.5 million towards seismic upgrades and a tsunami evacuation tower at Gudangaay Tlaat'sa Naay (GTN) Secondary school in Masset on Haida Gwaii.

      That’s in addition to the $250,000 from the Haida Gwaii education board.

      Renovations will include the creation of a new main entrance, a special education room, and a secondary Xaad Kil Haida language learning space.

      The new tower will be 10 metres tall, made of steel, and will include storage of emergency supplies.

      The tsunami evacuation tower will help to ensure that students and staff have faster access to a safe gathering spot in the case of emergency, as the nearest evacuation safe zone is over 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

      Haida Gwaii School District Parent Advisory Committee member Keshia Chutter explained the need for and importance of this tower for students during an evacuation.

      "The tsunami evacuation route currently recommended for our students and community is around a 10-kilometre drive down the highway,” Chutter stated in a news release. “The majority of this drive takes place at sea level along the Masset Inlet. 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. A tsunami evacuation tower on the grounds of our local school will ultimately reduce the time it takes to evacuate from the current 20 minutes or more to the time it takes to walk across the road."

      Once built, the school will serve both Gudangaay Tlaat'sa Naa Secondary and Tahaygen Elementary students. The amalgamated school willo allow the district to save almost $350,000 in annual operating costs, thereby allowing resources to be reallocated toward classrooms.

      Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2021 and is anticipated to be completed by autumn in 2022.