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

  • Could you receive a missile text alert on your phone? In B.C., not yet

    Canada News CBC News
    It was a terrifying morning in Hawaii last Saturday when thousands of people woke up to TV broadcasts, radio messages and a text alert on their smartphones warning them of an incoming ballistic missile. Of course, it turned out to be a false alarm. Source
  • Woman known for sneaking onto planes arrested again in Chicago

    World News CTV News
    CHICAGO -- A woman with a history of sneaking aboard planes slipped past security at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport this week and was flying to London when the airline realized she didn't have a ticket. Source
  • Family of Toronto man who disappeared near Toronto's Gay Village 'want the details' of how he died

    Canada News CBC News
    Andrew Kinsman's family is still searching for answers a day after a Toronto man was charged with first-degree murder in his disappearance and that of another man near the city's Gay Village last spring. "I want the details. Source
  • Company investigating after wind turbine collapses in Chatham-Kent, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    CHATHAM-KENT, Ont. -- A Maryland-based renewable energy company is investigating after one of its wind turbines collapsed in southwestern Ontario. Chad Reed, a spokesman for Terraform Power, said it happened late Thursday or early Friday at the company's Raleigh project in Chatham-Kent. Source
  • Conservatives question pope's airborne, shotgun nuptials

    World News CTV News
    LIMA, Peru -- The honeymoon, as it were, is apparently over. A day after Pope Francis grabbed headlines by pronouncing two flight attendants man and wife while flying 36,000 feet over Chile, the conservative Catholic commentariat on Friday questioned the legitimacy of the shotgun sacrament and warned it could cheapen the church's marriage preparation down the line. Source
  • Hawaii Gov. knew missile alert was false 15 minutes before he told public

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- The Hawaii National Guard's top commander said Friday he told Gov. David Ige that a missile alert was a false alarm two minutes after it went out statewide. But the governor didn't tell the public until 15 minutes later. Source
  • Sikh man gets apology after a P.E.I. Legion told him to remove his turban

    Canada News CBC News
    A Sikh man says he was asked to remove his turban by staff at the Royal Canadian Legion in Tignish, P.E.I., on Wednesday night and along with his friend, was subject to racist remarks from patrons. Source
  • Quebec teen says smartphone rules are too tough in letter to school board

    Canada News CBC News
    A Quebec teen thinks his school's policy of seizing smartphones belonging to students caught using them in class goes too far. Vincent Duguay, 15, challenged his school's cellphone policy with a cease-and-desist letter sent to the local school board this week. Source
  • Timeline of Lac-Megantic events

    Canada News CTV News
    SHERBROOKE, Que. -- Three men were found not guilty Friday in connection with the Lac-Megantic train disaster in July 2013. Here is a timeline of key moments related to the the derailment: JULY 6, 2013: An unattended train with five locomotives and more than 70 tank cars carrying crude oil rolls down an incline before coming off the tracks in Lac-Megantic, Que. Source
  • Tom Petty died of accidental drug overdose, family says

    World News CBC News
    Tom Petty's family says an autopsy found his death last year was due to an accidental drug overdose. (Chris Pizello/Associated Press) Tom Petty's family and the Los Angeles coroner say his death last year was due to an accidental drug overdose. Source