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

  • Book borrowed in 1956 is finally returned to New Brunswick library

    Canada News CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. -- An overdue book is finally back at the public library in Moncton, N.B., -- 63 years after it was borrowed. Librarian Chantale Bellemare says a senior was cleaning his house and discovered the volume of Relax and Live, a self-help book for relieving tension and getting better sleep. Source
  • Caught on cam: Alabama robbery turns into intense knife and machete fight

    World News CTV News
    The shocking moment a daring gas station robbery descended into an intense knife and machete fight was all caught on camera. Surveillance cameras captured video of the alleged robber entering a store with a knife in North Huntsville, Ala. Source
  • Man critical after being shot by Calgary police during alleged home invasion

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- Police in Calgary say an officer shot a man when police responded to a report of an armed home invasion. Officers arrived at the scene early Saturday and say they found two men allegedly attempting to flee in a vehicle. Source
  • Car rental employee admits to spiking co-workers' drinks with LSD

    World News CTV News
    A car rental employee has admitted to spiking his co-workers' drinks with LSD because they had “negative energy.” According to KMOV News 4, the 19-year-old Enterprise worker was arrested on Monday after telling authorities in Arnold, Mo. Source
  • Ford says social media allows politicians to circumvent mainstream journalists

    Canada News CBC News
    Premier Doug Ford says mainstream journalists have become irrelevant because social media allows him to speak directly to Ontarians. The Ontario premier told a conference of conservative thinkers, strategists and politicians Saturday that journalists are "losing the battle" to inform people about the news. Source
  • Here’s a breakdown of car seat regulations across Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    New regulations in Quebec will determine how long a child is required to use car seats or booster seats. Beginning April 18, children will need to be strapped into these types of seats until they are nine or stand more than 1.45 m (4’9”) tall. Source
  • Dozens killed in ethnic militia attack on Mali village

    World News CBC News
    Militia fighters descended on a village in central Mali early Saturday, killing at least 40 people, including the village chief and his grandchildren, in the latest violence based on ethnic militias in the volatile region. Militants from a Dogon group known as Dan Na Ambassagou have been blamed for scores of attacks over the past year, according to Human Rights Watch. Source
  • Cruise ship off Norway evacuated due to strong winds, engine trouble

    World News CBC News
    Police say a cruise ship with engine problems has sent a mayday call off Norway's western coast and is transporting its 1,300 passengers to shore. Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship ran into propulsion problems as strong winds and heavy seas hit Norway's coastal regions Saturday. Source
  • Passengers rescued by helicopter from stranded cruise ship near Norway

    World News CBC News
    Police say a cruise ship with engine problems has sent a mayday call off Norway's western coast and is transporting its 1,300 passengers to shore. Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship ran into propulsion problems as strong winds and heavy seas hit Norway's coastal regions Saturday. Source
  • Priest stabbed during mass in Montreal released from hospital

    Canada News CBC News
    The 26-year-old man suspected of attacking a priest at the Saint-Joseph Oratory in Montreal Friday is expected to be charged in court Saturday afternoon. The priest, Father Claude Grou, suffered minor injuries and has been released from hospital. Source