B.C.'s earthquake preparedness slowly progressing: expert

VANCOUVER -- Perceived public apathy towards the threat of a major earthquake off Canada's west coast hasn't stopped governments across southwestern British Columbia from quietly earmarking millions of dollars for seismic upgrades and construction in anticipation of the "Big One.

See Full Article

"

Much of the work is being done incrementally -- retrofits dovetailing with routine maintenance, schools being renovated one by one and new construction projects being subject to updated quake-resistant requirements.

Engineer and seismic specialist John Sherstobitoff praised the province on its disaster preparedness, saying the government has learned from the responses of other jurisdictions to earthquakes.

"We're doing pretty well," said Sherstobitoff, who works for global engineering firm Ausenco. "We're doing reasonably well for a province that hasn't had a major, damaging earthquake in this generation."

Scientists have determined the likelihood of another serious quake happening in the next 50 years is one in 10.

Pressure between the two undersea plates of the Cascadia subduction zone, located off Vancouver Island, has been building since the slabs last slipped in a major way in 1700. The ensuing megathrust quake decimated the Pacific Northwest coastline and sent a four-storey tsunami on a nine-hour journey across the ocean before it plowed into Japan.

The occurrence of such a calamitous event nowadays has the potential to destroy not only human life but also the province's pocket book, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

It released a report in 2013 that estimated the economic impact of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hitting B.C. would be a staggering $75 billion.

In the meantime, governments continue to prepare.

The City of Vancouver replaces about 0.5 per cent -- or six kilometres -- of its water mains a year, switching out brittle cast-iron material with a more resilient ductile iron.

Vancouver is also in the process of assessing its 560 municipal buildings for seismic upgrades. It has whittled down the list to 56 and a city spokesman said the final cut is expected sometime next year.

Portions of city hall are undergoing earthquake upgrades.

Across B.C., $2.2 billion in provincial funding has been spent or committed to upgrade or replace 214 of the 342 schools deemed at risk in an earthquake.

Across the Burrard Inlet from Vancouver, a 2015 study focusing on North Vancouver estimated that about 3.6 per cent -- or 840 -- of the district's 23,700 buildings would be severely damaged or destroyed in the event of a 7.3-magnitude quake in the Georgia Strait.

The cumulative economic loss from building damage and service disruption was estimated at just under $3 billion.

Metro Vancouver has seismically upgraded its water reservoirs and is looking at a program to bring its sewage system up to date.

A spokeswoman from Victoria said the city has managed to protect the historic portion of city hall and its next priority is the fire department headquarters.

Beyond seismic upgrades, some experts argue the province needs to go further with its mitigation efforts.

Ocean Networks Canada spokesman Teron Moore said British Columbia is missing the same kind of offshore early-warning system already in place in Japan and along sections of the U.S. coastline.

Moore attributed the absence of an early-warning system in B.C. to public apathy.

"We tend to put our heads in the sand a little bit," he said about British Columbians, whereas places like Japan with more frequent and severe seismic activity tend to be better prepared.

So far, B.C. has about 100 land and undersea earthquake sensors, a far cry from Japan's approximately 1,000 detection instruments.

Japan's technology is also integrated directly into its infrastructure, said Moore, so when an earthquake is detected not only are emergency personnel notified but trains automatically slow down, gas valves shut off and elevator doors open, for example.

Moore said improving Canada's capacity to detect quakes earlier will require more funding and better collaboration between the various organizations that operate sensors along the coast, such as Natural Resources Canada, the University of British Columbia and the provincial Transport Ministry.

An effective early-warning system could buy valuable seconds or even minutes to prepare before disaster struck, he added.

"Earthquake early warning isn't the solve-all solution for preparedness in British Columbia," Moore added. "It doesn't stop the shaking from happening. There still will be damage. (But) it does help."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Canadian citizen convicted in absentia in deadly Bulgaria bus bombing

    Canada News CBC News
    A Bulgarian court sentenced two men of Lebanese origin for life on Monday over a 2012 bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver, an act Bulgarian authorities have blamed on Lebanese Shia Muslim group Hezbollah. Source
  • U.K. faces soaring COVID-19 death rate unless it acts fast, medics warn

    World News CBC News
    Britain will face an exponentially growing death rate from COVID-19 within weeks unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government moves urgently to halt a rapidly spreading second wave of the outbreak, the country's senior medics said on Monday. Source
  • U.K. science advisers warn of darker COVID-19 days ahead

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Britain's top medical advisers on Monday painted a grim picture of exponential growth in illness and death if nothing is done to control the second wave of coronavirus infections, laying the groundwork for the government to announce new restrictions later this week. Source
  • Madrid adopts virus restrictions exposing poor-rich divide

    World News CTV News
    MADRID -- Police in the Spanish capital and its surrounding towns on Monday stopped people coming in and out of some working-class neighbourhoods that have been partially locked down to stem Europe's fastest coronavirus spread. The police controls will only relay information on the restrictions for the first two days. Source
  • Toddler dies in her sleep after parents are told by doctor she only has the flu

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The distraught mother of a two-year-old girl who died in her sleep three days after being told by doctors her daughter only had the flu says she feels the health-care system failed her. It has been nine months since Newmarket Ont. Source
  • EU weighs Lukashenko sanctions, meets his Belarus opponent

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers on Monday were weighing whether to impose sanctions on dozens of Belarus officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, after holding talks with his exiled main opponent. The EU has drawn up a list of around 40 people it could hit with asset freezes and travel bans in response to irregularities in the Aug. Source
  • Emmys 2020: A glitch-free technical triumph and a thrilling comedy sweep for Schitt's Creek

    World News CBC News
    It was a night of pitchy Zoom-audio, surprisingly few technical issues and historic wins — particularly for Canadian comedy Schitt's Creek — at the 72nd annual Emmy Awards on Sunday night. Though organizers had to dispatch nearly 130 camera-kits to nominees around the globe to accommodate stars staying at home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everything came together despite early predictions of dropped calls and general disaster. Source
  • Hospitalizations, deaths will follow Ontario's COVID-19 surge, but how many remains unclear

    Canada News CBC News
    The fresh spike in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario is not yet bringing an equivalent spike in hospital patients or deaths from the coronavirus, but experts say it's too early to draw conclusions. Over the past week, as Premier Doug Ford and his government slapped new restrictions on private gatherings, Ontario reported an average of 335 new confirmed COVID-19 infections daily. Source
  • Pediatricians sound alarm on lack of support needed to meet flu shot demand amid COVID-19

    Canada News CBC News
    Ontario pediatricians say their calls for the financial and logistical support needed to do more flu vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic have so far gone unheeded and fear an "imminent crisis" lies ahead. "We … would like to express our urgent concerns regarding an imminent crisis in influenza vaccination," said an online petition launched on Change.org Saturday by the pediatrics section of the Ontario Medical Association. Source
  • Back to school means back to stress and anxiety for grandparents during coronavirus pandemic

    Canada News CBC News
    It's not only parents who are trying to navigate back to school for their children. Some grandparents are trying to figure out where they fit into the maze of modified classrooms, remote learning and home-schooling while many of their adult children work from home. Source