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

  • Liberation of Mosul 'imminent,' ISIS days numbered: UN envoy

    World News CTV News
    The liberation of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul "is imminent" and the days of the Islamic State extremist group's self-declared caliphate "are numbered," the U.N. envoy for Iraq said Monday. But Jan Kubis told the Security Council that despite progress, fighting remains "a tremendous challenge" because IS fighters are increasingly using civilians as human shields in "a last-gasp effort that reveals little more than the inherent inhuman barbarity of the terrorists. Source
  • Canadian officials express concern, solidarity after deadly explosion in U.K.

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians "are shocked by the news of the horrific attack in Manchester." Canadians are shocked by the news of the horrific attack in Manchester tonight. Please keep the victims & their families in your thoughts. Source
  • Military to help displaced residents of flooded Labrador town

    Canada News CTV News
    HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. -- Ottawa is sending military assistance to help the displaced residents of a flooded-ravaged town in central Labrador. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government is stepping in to respond to the severe flooding in Mud Lake. Source
  • Police: Manchester concert explosions treated as a 'terrorist incident' [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Several people have died following reports of an explosion Monday night at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England, police said. A representative said the singer was not injured. There were no immediate details of what happened during the concert by the American singer, but police advised the public to avoid the area around the Manchester Arena. Source
  • Brazil's Temer says he will only leave office if forced

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- Embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer says he will only leave office if forced out because stepping down would be an admission of guilt in a corruption scandal that has led to growing calls for his ouster. Source
  • Explosions reported at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Several people have died following reports of an explosion Monday night at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England, police said. A representative said the singer was not injured. There were no immediate details of what happened during the concert by the American singer, but police advised the public to avoid the area around the Manchester Arena. Source
  • 'Unbelievable': Dozens swarm dock where sea lion grabbed girl, despite warnings

    Canada News CBC News
    On Saturday, a girl was yanked off a dock in Richmond, B.C. by a California sea lion. Moments before, her family had thrown bread to the animal. Video of the incident has been viewed more than 14 million times. Source
  • First World War replica bi-plane squadron to fly coast-to-coast

    Canada News CTV News
    Allan Snowie admits his goggles did “mist up” on his first pass over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in a First World War replica bi-plane ahead of the recent 100th anniversary of the pivotal battle. Source
  • This international student gets hard lesson in personal safety after 'brazen' purse snatching

    Canada News CBC News
    An international student got a tough lesson in personal safety after her purse was snatched amid the bustle of a busy brewery over the weekend in what police are calling a brazen theft. Areum An, 30, did what many were doing over the weekend — catching up with a friend at a restaurant over some beers. Source
  • 'Ultranationalist' group, worried about illegal crossings, monitors Quebec-U.S. border

    Canada News CBC News
    Over the holiday weekend, while many Quebecers were enjoying some overdue sunshine, a dozen people worried about lax border controls gathered in the woods near Hemingford, Que., in the hopes of staring down asylum seekers. Source