New underwater quake sensors could sound early alarm off B.C. coast

VANCOUVER -- The organization that monitors undersea conditions off Canada's coast lines will soon have more tools to sound early warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes in an area of the West Coast considered overdue for 'the big one.

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The B.C. government has provided $5 million, allowing Ocean Networks Canada to install eight more sensors on the ocean floor west of Vancouver Island.

The sensors detect the very first movements of the earth's crust when an earthquake occurs.

The funding comes just one month after Ocean Networks Canada spokesman Teron Moore said public apathy in B.C. was hampering development of a strong early warning system.

British Columbia has about 100 land and undersea earthquake sensors, compared to Japan's approximately 1,000 detection instruments.

Moore said improving Canada's capacity to detect quakes earlier would require more funding and better collaboration between the various organizations that operate sensors along the coast.

Ocean Networks Canada collects data from offshore and coastal motion sensors that can link into networks of land-based sensors from other agencies including those owned by the province, Natural Resources Canada and the University of British Columbia.

In addition to funding new sensors, the B.C. investment will be used to bolster that integration.

Adding sensors will increase the reliability of incoming data, which can then be fed to a centralized source capable of sounding an alert about the arrival of a damaging earthquake.

"Investment in earthquake early warning systems for our province is a key step in protecting British Columbians," said Dave Cockle, Oak Bay fire chief and president of the BC Earthquake Alliance.

"The seconds or minutes of advance warning can allow people and systems to take appropriate actions to protect life and property."



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