Feeling a Little Shaken Up?
Many in Vancouver felt the effects of a 6.7-magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of BC (100km from Port Hardy) on April 23rd, spurring discussion about earthquake preparedness. Local area maps produced by the City of Vancouver outline areas in the lower mainland that could be affected by seismic events which can cause structural damage to buildings, trigger a tsunami, or give rise to liquefaction, a phenomenon which essentially turns solid ground into liquid due to shaken silt and soil below the surface. For example, one map plots the location of Vancouver’s seismically unsafe buildings and another highlights areas that may be more vulnerable in the event of a tsunami. According to this research, a startling 60% of Vancouver’s building stock was built before seismic building codes were established in 1973, including civic structures and many schools, prompting seismic upgrades wherever possible. In addition to structural damage and physical danger caused by a worst-case-scenario quake in Vancouver, an estimated $75 billion economic loss is expected, representing 5.2% of the national GDP that would likely result in a national recession. Not a good outlook for a region situated on unpredictable fault lines.
However, the City of Vancouver is working hard to address these realities, including development of an Earthquake Preparedness Strategy and other measures to reduce the potentially catastrophic damage that an earthquake could have. Part of this strategy includes learning from other cities like Christchurch, New Zealand or Tokyo, Japan, which have experienced high magnitude quakes impacting infrastructure, economy and culture. Taking cues from these cities, Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility strategy was developed to take pressure off the City grid in the event of a disaster, and backup power has been installed at key facilities such as Fire Halls and Data Centres. The Granville Street Bridge is in the process of being seismically upgraded, as are many local schools. Plans are also in place to implement city-wide emergency training including an annual earthquake drill, and strategies for emergency shelters, potable water and various community volunteer response teams are in the works.
Citizens can also be individually prepared by keeping emergency kits on hand and finding out what to do before, during and after a quake. Do you have your 3-day survival kit ready?
[Top Image: Elementary school students wearing padded hats for protection during an earthquake drill in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Shabbar Raza. ]